2011 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy
The state should ensure that its teacher preparation programs provide elementary teachers with a broad liberal arts education, the necessary foundation for teaching to the Common Core Standards.
Although Wisconsin has adopted the Common Core Standards, the state does not ensure that its elementary teacher candidates are adequately prepared to teach the rigorous content associated with these standards.
Wisconsin requires candidates to pass the Praxis II general elementary content test, which does not report teacher performance in each subject area, meaning that it is possible to pass the test and still fail some subject areas, especially given the state's low passing score. Further, based on available information on the Praxis II, there is no reason to expect the current version would be well aligned with the Common Core Standards.
Although the state does not require specific coursework for elementary teacher candidates, Wisconsin does require that all teacher candidates complete a general education program that includes written and oral communication, fine arts, social studies, biological and physical sciences, the humanities (including literature), and western and nonwestern history or contemporary culture. These are sensible indicators of important curricular areas, but there is no guarantee that the courses used to meet these requirements will be relevant to the PK-6 classroom.
In addition, Wisconsin has a set of standards that preparation programs must use to frame their instruction of elementary teacher candidates. However, these standards are far too broad and too focused on general statements about teacher competencies to provide sufficient guidance on subject-matter preparation.
Finally, there is no assurance that arts and sciences faculty will teach liberal arts classes to elementary teacher candidates.
Wisconsin Administrative Code PI 34.02, .11, .15 Praxis II www.ets.org
Require a content test that ensures sufficient knowledge in all subjects.
Wisconsin should ensure that its subject-matter test for elementary teacher candidates is well aligned with the Common Core Standards, which represent an effort to significantly raise the standards for the knowledge and skills American students will need for college readiness and global competitiveness.
The state should also require separate passing scores for each content area on the test because without them it is impossible to measure knowledge of individual subjects. Further, to be meaningful, Wisconsin should ensure that these passing scores reflect high levels of performance.
Provide broad liberal arts coursework relevant to the elementary classroom.
Wisconsin should either articulate a more specific set of standards or establish more comprehensive coursework requirements that are specifically geared to the areas of knowledge needed by PK-6 teachers. Further, the state should align its requirements for elementary teacher candidates with the Common Core Standards to ensure that candidates will complete coursework relevant to the common topics in elementary grades. An adequate curriculum is likely to require approximately 36 credit hours in the core subject areas of English, science, social studies and fine arts.
Require at least an academic concentration.
An academic concentration, if not a full academic major, would not only enhance Wisconsin teachers' content knowledge, but it would also ensure that prospective teachers have taken higher-level academic coursework. Further, it would provide an option for teacher candidates unable to fulfill student teaching or other professional requirements to still earn a degree.
Ensure that arts and sciences faculty teach liberal arts coursework.
Although an education professor is best suited to teach effective methodologies in subject instruction, faculty from the university's college of arts and sciences should provide subject-matter foundation.
Wisconsin noted that it has adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSSs) for English language arts and mathematics, and that efforts are underway to provide all stakeholders with resources and professional development to implement them. The state added that it will be revising its elementary content guidelines for preparation programs based on the new CCSSs and the new InTASC standards.
Further, Wisconsin pointed out that it will use these new content guidelines to determine whether the current content exam still meets the state's needs. The shelf-test elementary content exam that Wisconsin selected in 2001 was not available with separate subscores. However, the state recognizes that new testing options may be available for review, and it looks forward to moving ahead with this work.