Today, under the cover of night, Republicans added a provision to the Wisconsin budget that would allow someone without even a high school diploma to become a special education teacher (in addition to 12 other subject areas) (Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, 2015). This provision would put Wisconsin at literally the bottom of teacher quality standards for all 50 states.
Wisconsin’s education system appears to be on its own dizzying Race to the Bottom as it adopts policies that are in direct contradiction to those of top school systems around the world such as Finland and Singapore. For example, countless research studies have found that teacher quality is the single most important influencer on academic achievement aside from socioeconomic status (Donaldson, 2012). Finland’s teacher licensing standards are actually similar to Wisconsin’s current standards where teachers major in education and minor in a subject area (Sahlberg, 2013). Why would we mess with our licensing standards when they are so similar to the top country in the world in education? The way to create a great education system for Wisconsin’s kids is through high professional standards for teachers, not by making it possible for literally anyone to become a teacher.
Research shows great school systems give teachers the autonomy to plan and implement lessons and to create their own student assessments (Sahlberg, 2013). Instead, Republican Wisconsin legislators have planned for more state control over curriculum by allowing for state takeover of schools, and increasing standardized testing. This year alone I spent over 30% of my time as a teacher proctoring state mandated standardized exams. I cannot imagine what “learning” will look like as more tests are piled on our children.
Over the past year, I have witnessed what used to be one of our country’s best educational systems continue its downward spiral since Governor Walker took office. As I look to have children of my own over the next few years, I know with good conscience that I cannot subject them to the mediocre education system that will be in place in Wisconsin. Today, as Republicans continued their assault on public education in Wisconsin, I signed a lease on a new apartment in Minnesota. I promise to remain a faithful Packers fan.
Anderson, J. (2014, October 22). Scott walker has failed wisconsin and minnesota is the proof. Journal Sentinel. Retrieved from http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/purple-wisconsin/280089862.html
Donaldson, M.L. (2012). Teachers’ Perspectives on Evaluation Reform. Washington, D.C.: Center for American Progress. Retrieved from
Sahlberg, P. (2013). Teachers as leaders in finland. Educational Leadership, 71(2), 36-40.
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. (2015, May 27). Legislative action slides teacher licensing standards toward the bottom. Retrieved from
Candace Burckhardt is an international education consultant with an emphasis on special education, English learners, and social-emotional learning.