Admission into Teacher Preparation: Wisconsin

2015 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy


The state should require teacher preparation programs to admit only candidates with strong academic records.

Meets in part

Analysis of Wisconsin's policies

Wisconsin requires that approved undergraduate teacher preparation programs accept only teacher candidates who have passed a basic skills test, the Praxis I Core Academic Skills for Educators. Although the state sets the minimum score for this test, it is normed just to the prospective teacher population. The state also allows teacher preparation programs to exempt candidates who demonstrate equivalent performance on a college entrance exam.

Wisconsin requires a 2.5 GPA for admission to an undergraduate program. To promote diversity, Wisconsin allows programs to admit up to 10 percent of the students who have not passed the basic skills test.


Recommendations for Wisconsin

Require all teacher candidates to pass a test of academic proficiency that assesses mastery of reading, writing and mathematics skills as a criterion for admission to teacher preparation programs. Even though the state's policy permitting programs to admit up to 10 percent of students who have not passed the basic skills test is part of a laudable goal to promote diversity, allowing this exemption is risky because of the low bar set by the Praxis I (see next recommendation).  

Require preparation programs to use a common test normed to the general college-bound population. Wisconsin should require an assessment that demonstrates that candidates are academically competitive with all peers, regardless of their intended profession. Requiring a common test normed to the general college population would allow for the selection of applicants in the top half of their class, as well as facilitate program comparison.  

Increase the GPA requirement. Requiring only a 2.5 GPA sets a low bar for the academic performance of the state's prospective teachers. Wisconsin should consider using a higher GPA requirement for program admission in combination with a test of academic proficiency. A sliding scale of GPA and test scores would allow flexibility for candidates in demonstrating academic ability. When using such multiple measures, a sliding scale that still ensures minimum standards would allow students to earn program admission through a higher GPA and a lower test score, or vice-versa.  

Consider requiring candidates to pass subject-matter tests as a condition of admission into teacher programs. In addition to ensuring that programs require a measure of academic performance for admission, Wisconsin might also want to consider requiring content testing prior to program admission as opposed to at the point of program completion. Program candidates are likely to have completed coursework that covers related test content in the prerequisite classes required for program admission. Thus, it would be sensible to have candidates take content tests while this knowledge is fresh rather than wait two years to fulfill the requirement, and candidates lacking sufficient expertise would be able to remedy deficits prior to entering formal preparation.

State response to our analysis

Wisconsin stated that admission requirements include both a communication skills requirement and a minimum 2.5 GPA admission requirement. The state noted that the completion requirement is a 2.75 GPA, and most educator preparation programs (75 percent) have set a 2.75 or higher GPA for admission, as evidenced in the annual HEOA Title II reporting. According to the state, the median GPA is well above the 2.5 minimal requirement. Wisconsin also reiterated the state's policy allowing students to qualify for admissions by passing a college entrance exam.

Wisconsin noted that if an EPP establishes an exceptions policy, it may grant exceptions to no more than 10 percent of the applicants per admission period in either the GPA or basic skills test requirements. Wisconsin stated that the exceptions policy provides a sliding scale that still allows a program to make the rare exception as needed. The state pointed out that because educator preparation programs offer a variety of preparation models and serve undergraduate, post baccalaureate, and accelerated competency based models. To accommodate these models as well as career-changers, Wisconsin prefers to allow EPPs to determine the best time for a candidate to take a content test within their program sequence.

How we graded

Research rationale

Preparation programs should screen candidates for academic proficiency.
Evidence is strong that countries whose students consistently outperform U.S. students set a much higher bar for entry to teacher preparation programs than what is typically found in the United States. Research is also clear about the positive effects on student achievement of teachers with stronger academic backgrounds.

Far from the top third or even top tenth to which more selective countries limit candidates, most states do not even aim for the top 50 percent. Many states do not evaluate candidates' academic proficiency as a condition of admission to teacher preparation at all; most others set a low bar.  Some of the states in this latter group require only a basic skills test. These tests generally assess middle school-level skills, and do not ensure that candidates are prepared to do college-level work.  Others have a minimum GPA requirement, but too few demand at least a 3.0.

Screening candidates at program entry protects the public's investment.
Teacher preparation programs that do not screen candidates, particularly programs at public institutions that are heavily subsidized by the state, invest considerable taxpayer dollars in the preparation of individuals who may not be able to successfully complete the program and pass the licensing tests required to become a teacher. Candidates needing additional support should complete remediation prior to program entry, avoiding the possibility of an unsuccessful investment of significant public tax dollars, as well as the candidate's own investment. 

Tests normed to the general college-bound population would improve selectivity.
In addition to the fact that current basic skills tests generally measure only middle school-level skills, another concern is that they are normed only to the prospective teacher population.  Tests normed to the general college-bound population would shine a clearer light on the academic proficiency of those admitted to teacher preparation programs and allow programs to be truly selective. 

CAEP standards are raising the bar, but are no substitute for states' own policy.
A number of states now have rigorous academic standards for admission by virtue  of requiring that programs meet CAEP's accreditation standards. CAEP's standards for admission require that the average GPA of a program's accepted cohort of candidates meets or exceeds 3.0, and the group average performance on nationally normed ability/achievement assessments such as ACT, SAT or GRE is:in the top 50th percentile, increasing to the top third over time..However, whether CAEP will uniformly uphold its standards and deny accreditation to programs that fall short of these admission requirements remains to be seen. Clear state policy would eliminate this uncertainty and send an unequivocal message to programs about the state's expectations.

Admission into Teacher Preparation: Supporting Research
For information on basic skills and certification test pass rates across the states, see Secretary's Seventh Annual Report on Teacher Quality 2010.

For evidence that basic skills tests for teachers assess no more than middle school level skills, see "Not Good Enough: A Content Analysis of Teacher Licensing Examinations." Thinking K-16, The Education Trust, (Spring 1999).

For evidence of the predictive power of college selectivity and SAT scores see C, Clotfelter, H. Ladd, and J. Vigdor, "How and Why do Teacher Credentials Matter for Student Achievement?" (2007) and Jonah E. Rockoff, Brian A. Jacob, Thomas J. Kane, and Douglas O. Staiger, "Can You Recognize an Effective Teacher When You Recruit One", National Bureau of Economic Research (2008). The authors also found college selectivity to have a positive impact on student achievement in North Carolina in "How and Why Do Teacher Credentials Matter for Student Achievement?", Calder Institute (2007). 

For a discussion of teacher preparation program admissions policies in other countries, see OECD study Teachers Matter: Attracting, Developing and Retaining Effective Teachers, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2005).  Also see Barber, M. and Mourshed, M., "How the World's Best-Performing School Systems Come out on Top." McKinsey & Company (2007).

For research supporting greater selectivity for teacher preparation programs see, Donald Boyd et al., "The Narrowing Gap in New York City Teacher Qualifications and its Implications for Student Achievement in High-Poverty Schools," National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 14021, June 2008; Drew Gitomer, "Teacher Quality in a Changing Policy Landscape: Improvements in the Teacher Pool," Educational Testing Service, 2007; D. Goldhaber et al., NBPTS certification: Who applies and what factors are associated with success?", Urban Institute, 2003; A.J. Wayne and P. Youngs, "Teacher characteristics and student achievement gains: A review." Review of Educational Research, Volume 73, No. 1, Spring 2003, pp. 89-122; Grover Whitehurst, "Scientifically based research on teacher quality: Research on teacher preparation and professional development," Paper presented at the White House Conference on Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers, 2002; J. Kain and K. Singleton, "Equality of Educational Opportunity RevisitedNew England Economic Review, May/June 1996, 87-114; R. Ferguson and H. Ladd, "How and Why Money Matters: An Analysis of Alabama Schools," In H. Ladd (ed). Holding Schools Accountable: Performance-based reform in education. Brookings Institution, 1996, pp. 265-298; R. Greenwald et al., "The Effect of School Resources on Student Acheivement", Review of Educational Research, Fall 1996, Volume 66, No. 3, pp. 361-396; R. Ehrenberg and D. Brewer, "Do School and Teacher Characteristics Matter? Evidence from High School and Beyond", Economics of Education Review, March 1994, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp. 1-17; Ron Ferguson, "Paying for public education: New evidence on how and why money matters," Harvard Journal on Legislation, Volume 28, Summer 1991, pp. 465-498; R. Strauss and E. Sawyer, "Some New Evidence on Teacher and Student Competencies", Economics of Education Review, Volume 5, Issue 1, 1986, pp. 41-48; M. McLaughlin and D. Marsh, "Staff development and school change," Teachers College Record, Volume 80, Number 1,1978, pp. 69-94; D. Winkler, "Educational Achievement and School Peer Group Composition," The Journal of Human Resources, Volume 10, No. 2, Spring 1975, pp. 189-204; A. Summers and B. Wolfe, "Do schools make a difference?" The American Economic Review, Volume 67, No. 4, September 1977, pp. 639-652; Eric Hanushek, "Teacher characteristics and gains in student achievement: Estimation using micro data", The American Economic Review, Volume 61, No. 2, May 1971, pp. 280-288.