Licensure Advancement: Wisconsin

2017 Retaining Effective Teachers Policy


The state should base licensure advancement on evidence of teacher effectiveness. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.

Does not meet

Analysis of Wisconsin's policies

Evidence of effectiveness: Wisconsin's requirements for licensure advancement and renewal are not based on evidence of teacher effectiveness. 

Advancing to a professional license: Wisconsin requires teachers to complete a professional development plan (PDP) that includes: activities and objectives related to professional development and district or performance goals, a timeline for achieving the goals, evidence of peer collaboration, and an assessment plan specifying growth indicators. PDPs focus professional learning on each individual educator's needs and must document professional growth and its impact on student learning. Acceptable documentation includes evidence of student performance measured by state assessments, mentor comments, and lesson plans. Wisconsin offers an optional 10-year Master Educator License for applicants who complete certification from the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards or the Wisconsin Master Educator Assessment Process.

Renewing a professional license: Wisconsin requires teachers to renew their licenses every five years by completing a professional development plan (PDP) that is verified by a professional development team. Professional development activities can include, but are not limited to, "evidence of whole group and individual student performance as measured by state, local, formal and informal assessments; lesson plans; [or] supervisor and mentor comments of classroom performance." 


Recommendations for Wisconsin

Require evidence of effectiveness as a part of teacher licensing policy. 
Wisconsin should require evidence of teacher effectiveness to be a factor in determining whether teachers may renew or advance to a higher-level license.

Discontinue license renewal requirements with no direct connection to classroom effectiveness. 
Although targeted requirements may potentially expand teacher knowledge and improve teacher practice, Wisconsin's general, nonspecific coursework requirements for license renewal merely call for teachers to complete a certain amount of seat time. These requirements do not correlate with teacher effectiveness.

State response to our analysis

Wisconsin was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. 

Updated: December 2017

How we graded

9A: Licensure Advancement

  • Evidence of Effectiveness for Advancement: The state should:
    • Require evidence of effectiveness to be considered as a factor for advancement from a probationary to a nonprobationary license.
    • Not require teachers to earn an advanced degree as a condition of professional licensure.
  • Evidence of Effectiveness for Renewal: The state should ensure that any coursework requirements tied to advancing from a probationary to a nonprobrationary license address the specific needs of an individual teacher, rather than a need that is generic and unspecified.
Evidence of Effectiveness for Advancement
One-half of the total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • One-half credit: The state will earn one-half of a point if it bases licensure advancement exclusively on evidence of effectiveness.
  • One-quarter credit: The state will earn one-quarter of a point if it bases licensure advancement on evidence of effectiveness in addition to other requirements not linked to effectiveness (e.g., teachers obtain an advanced degree).
Evidence of Effectiveness for Renewal
One-half of the total goal score is earned based on the following: 

  • One-half credit: The state will earn one-half of a point if it exclusively bases licensure renewal on evidence of effectiveness.
  • One-quarter credit: The state will earn one-quarter of a point if it partially bases licensure renewal on evidence of effectiveness.

Research rationale

The reason for probationary licensure should be to determine teacher effectiveness. Most states grant new teachers a probationary license that must later be converted to an advanced or professional license. A probationary period is sound policy as it provides an opportunity to determine whether individuals merit professional licensure. However, very few states require any determination of teacher performance or effectiveness in deciding whether a teacher will advance from the probationary license. Instead, states generally require probationary teachers to fulfill a set of requirements to receive advanced certification. Therefore, ending the probationary period is based on whether a checklist has been completed rather than on teacher performance and effectiveness.

Most state requirements for achieving professional certification have not been shown to affect teacher effectiveness.[1] Unfortunately, not only do most states fail to connect advanced certification to actual evidence of teacher effectiveness, but also the requirements teachers must most often meet are not even related to teacher effectiveness. The most common requirement for professional licensure is completion of additional coursework, often resulting in a master's degree. Requiring teachers to obtain additional training in their teaching area would be meaningful; however, the requirements are usually vague, allowing the teacher to fulfill coursework requirements from long menus that include areas having no connection or use to the teacher in the classroom.[2] The research evidence on requiring a master's degree is quite conclusive: with rare exceptions, these degrees have not been shown to make teachers more effective.[3] This is likely due in no small part to the fact that teachers may not attain master's degrees in their subject areas.

In addition to their dubious value, these requirements may also serve as a disincentive to teacher retention. Talented probationary teachers may be unwilling to invest time and resources in more education coursework. Further, they may well pursue advanced degrees that facilitate leaving teaching.

[1] For studies observing various trends in student achievement and licensure requirements, see: Clotfelter, C. T., Ladd, H. F., & Vigdor, J. L. (2004). Teacher sorting, teacher shopping, and the assessment of teacher effectiveness. Duke University manuscript., which is the previous draft of the current paper entitled: Clotfelter, C. T., Ladd, H. F., & Vigdor, J. L. (2006). Teacher-student matching and the assessment of teacher effectiveness. Journal of human Resources, 41(4), 778-820. Retrieved from; Ladd, H. F., Clotfelter, C. T., & Vigdor, J. L. (2007). How and why do teacher credentials matter for student achievement? (NBER Working Paper 142786). Retrieved from; Ehrenberg, R. G., & Brewer, D. J. (1994). Do school and teacher characteristics matter? Evidence from high school and beyond. Economics of Education Review, 13(1), 1-17.; Goldhaber, D., & Anthony, E. (2007). Can teacher quality be effectively assessed? National Board Certification as a signal of effective teaching. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 89(1), 134-150.; Goldhaber, D. D., & Brewer, D. J. (1997). Why don't schools and teachers seem to matter? Assessing the impact of unobservables on educational productivity. Journal of Human Resources, 505-523. Retrieved from; Goldhaber, D. D., & Brewer, D. J. (2000). Does teacher certification matter? High school teacher certification status and student achievement. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 22(2), 129-145.; Hanushek, E. A., & Rivkin, S. G. (2006). Teacher quality. Handbook of the Economics of Education, 2, 1051-1078. Retrieved from; Rivkin, S. G., Hanushek, E. A., & Kain, J. F. (2005). Teachers, schools, and academic achievement. Econometrica, 73(2), 417-458. Retrieved from; Harris, D., & Sass, T. R. (2006). Value-added models and the measurement of teacher quality (Unpublished manuscript). Retrieved from; Harris, D. N., & Sass, T. R. (2011). Teacher training, teacher quality and student achievement. Journal of Public Economics, 95(7), 798-812. Retrieved from; Harris, D. N., & Sass, T. R. (2009). The effects of NBPTS‐certified teachers on student achievement. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 28(1), 55-80. Retrieved from; Jepsen, C. (2005). Teacher characteristics and student achievement: Evidence from teacher surveys. Journal of Urban Economics, 57(2), 302-319.; Monk, D. H. (1994). Subject area preparation of secondary mathematics and science teachers and student achievement. Economics of Education Review, 13(2), 125-145.; Riordan, J. (2006, April). Is there a relationship between No Child Left Behind indicators of teacher quality and the cognitive and social development of early elementary students? In annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, CA. Retrieved from; Schneider,B. (1985). Further evidence of school effects. Journal of Educational Research, 78(6), p. 351-356.
[2] For evidence on the lack of correlation between education coursework and teacher effectiveness, see: Allen, M. B. (2003). Eight questions on teacher preparation: What does the research say? Education Commission of the States. Retrieved from
[3] For a meta-analysis of the research on the relationship between advanced degrees and teacher effectiveness, see: Doherty, K., Walsh, K., Jacobs, S., & Neuman-Sheldon, B. (2010). Arizona's race to the top: What will it take to compete? Washington, DC: National Council on Teacher Quality. Retrieved from; For secondary math teachers however, a relevant master's degree is associated with greater teacher effectiveness, see: Walsh, K., Lubell, S., & Ross, E. (2017, August). Backing the wrong horse: The story of one state's ambitious but disheartening foray into performance pay. Washington, DC: National Council on Teacher Quality. Retrieved from