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Wisconsin Council of Teachers of English Position Statements, Resolutions, Endorsements

WCTE POSITION STATEMENT ON CHANGES IN LICENSURE

Tony Evers, State Superintendent
David DeGuire, director for Teacher Education Professional Development and Licensing
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
125 South Webster Street Madison, WI 53703

Dear Dr. Evers, David DeGuire, and Members of the Leadership Group on School Staffing Challenges,

We write to you today on behalf of the Wisconsin Council of Teachers of English (WCTE) to address our concerns regarding the emergency licensing changes. WCTE is a nonprofit, voluntary educational organization whose purpose is to improve the quality of instruction in the English language arts at all school levels in the state of Wisconsin. While WCTE understands the challenges administrators face with hiring qualified teachers across the state, we have strong reservations regarding some of the proposed changes. While these changes may help to ease the teacher shortages in Wisconsin in the short-term, the long-term effects need to be addressed. It is imperative for students to have high quality teachers who can provide high-quality instruction.

WCTE has the following concerns about the proposed changes:

Consolidated subject licenses.
An English license allows a teacher to teach English Language Arts grades 7–12. S/he does not have the skills or background to teach journalism or theater. One would do a disservice to students who were expecting to be taught the fundamentals of journalism but who would have to settle for one who is not licensed in that area, because, unfortunately, that’s what it would be. Students should not have to settle in their education. They should expect teachers who are experts in the content of their field and experts in conveying that content. Furthermore, giving school districts the authority to validate teacher competency gives too much power to individuals who don’t know the specifics of every license. As an example, if a school district lacks a reading specialist, will it try to substitute an English teacher? A reading specialist requires a diverse set of skills that are different from the skills required of an English teacher. Once again, to compare the two licenses is to minimize the other.

Consolidated grade level licenses.
A similar problem lies in the proposal to consolidate grade levels on teaching licenses. The skills and knowledge to teach differs with the age of the student. Teaching 4th grade students is much different than teaching seniors in high school, academically and developmentally. Teaching programs in Wisconsin universities and colleges would suffer attempting to prepare future teachers to teach any age in that 14-year span from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade.

Flexibility in earning new licenses in a new area.
Just because one can teach, does not mean that skill of teaching is transferable to any subject area. A teacher’s education and skills need to match the license s/he has. By allowing school districts to decide if a teacher is successful in a new license area lessens what it means to be a licensed professional. Will every school district across the state have the same standards to endorse a candidate for full licensure? Wisconsin is known for its high standards for teachers, and we urge you to keep those standards high.

Eliminate mastery testing when able to demonstrate content knowledge in other ways.
As teachers, we understand the desire to reduce high stakes testing, and the Praxis and other such tests pre-service teachers need to take to enter the field would certainly be considered high stakes. However, by eliminating mastery testing, the level of knowledge becomes inconsistent across the state and the high standard that Wisconsin education is known for diminishes. Furthermore, focusing on only content knowledge, one piece of the art of teaching, is diminishing the heart of the teaching profession: pedagogical skills and learning. Of the ten teaching standards in Wisconsin, only one refers to content knowledge. The other nine standards all revolve around pedagogy.

The WCTE mission is to strengthen the teaching of English language arts through mentoring, scholarship, advocacy, and collegiality. Altering the requirements for teachers and insinuating that pedagogy is less important than content knowledge diminishes the teaching profession and endangers the quality of education of Wisconsin students, two tenets for which our organization stands.

Respectfully,

Wisconsin Council of Teachers of English

June 2017

WCTE Position Statement Regarding the

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts

In light of the recent questions raised by Governor Walker regarding the adoption and implementation of the CCSS for the state of Wisconsin educational systems, the Wisconsin Council of Teachers of English resolves:

WCTE recognizes the importance of and need for standards.

WCTE supports the rigor of the CCSS for ELA and its potential to impact student learning and develop Wisconsin students to be college and career ready.

WCTE encourages educational leaders in WI to have broad interpretation of the CCSS for ELA.

WCTE believes that the CCSS for ELA provide a basic framework, which can be a starting place in making curricular decisions.

WCTE believes that the spirit of the CCSS for ELA as a guide for college and career readiness is enhanced when seen in the larger context of the ELA as one of the humanities that explore the human experience.

WCTE endorses the efforts of Wisconsin DPI to place the CCSS for ELA in the larger context of the humanities.

WCTE cautions against the misuse of assessment of students and teachers that will be linked to the CCSS for ELA.

 

WCTE supports the five policy goals developed by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) through their partnership with the National Center for Literacy Education (NCLE) and their compelling report on the current status of support for professional learning in schools: “Remodeling Literacy Learning: Making Room for What Works.”

1. Support educators’ knowledge of literacy pertinent to their content areas.

2. Promote active collaboration among educators to deepen student learning.

3. Invest in professional learning that is ongoing, job-embedded, collaborative, and linked to engaging literacy learners across grades and subjects.

4. Deploy educator time to maximize the development of collective capacity across a school or system.

5. Foster shared agreements about literacy among educators to deepen learning in every subject.

Passed by WCTE membership October 11, 2013.

 

Resolution in opposition to Gov. Walker’s plan to strip Wisconsin public workers of their collective bargaining rights

The Wisconsin Council of Teachers of English strongly opposes Governor Walker’s plan to strip Wisconsin public workers of their collective bargaining rights. Here’s why:

  1. There has not been enough time for the legislature to make an informed decision.

The Governor is trying to rush this legislation through without an honest debate about the effects it will have on the state. In face-to-face meetings with school district delegates, Republican legislators admitted that they have not had time to read the bill and repeatedly expressed surprise at consequences of the bill that they had not foreseen. WCTE demands that more time be taken to fully understand the implications of the Governor’s proposal before a vote is taken.

  1. WCTE believes that decisions of this magnitude must derive from negotiation and open debate.

Unions and public workers have repeatedly informed the Governor that they are willing to negotiate necessary adjustments to wages and benefits to meet economic demands if the Governor is willing to remove all references to collective bargaining from his proposal. Despite public workers’ willingness to compromise, the Governor continues to refuse. Until he abandons this unreasonable stance, WCTE has no choice but to condemn his actions and oppose any vote on his proposal until all references to collective bargaining are removed.

  1. The quality of education in Wisconsin will suffer if the Governor’s proposal passes.

Teachers will have no voice in developing important policies such as class size, teaching load, professional development, planning time, extracurricular duties, and more; this will reduce the effectiveness of instruction because school districts will be unable to resist the temptation to use the removal of bargaining rights to cut costs in these and other areas. The Governor’s proposal also risks driving the most talented, dedicated, and experienced teachers from the profession or from the state.

Students, however, will suffer most. For example, five states currently prohibit collective bargaining for educators: South Carolina, Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, and Virginia. According to 2009 data, students in these states achieve significantly lower SAT and ACT scores than Wisconsin students do.

Since removing collective bargaining rights from public workers offers no economic gains to offset these losses in educational quality, WCTE has no choice but to oppose any vote on the Governor’s proposal until all references to collective bargaining are removed.

  1. School districts and administrators across the state have joined in their employees’ opposition to the Governor’s proposal.

The Wisconsin Association of School Boards, along with local municipalities and school districts across the state, has recognized the dangers of the Governor’s proposal and has issued statements to condemn it. WCTE recognizes that if these groups are willing to keep collective bargaining rights for their employees, there is no need for the radical changes the Governor proposes. Therefore WCTE strongly opposes any vote on the Governor’s proposal until all references to collective bargaining are removed.

  1. WCTE believes that public workers are not our enemies. They are our neighbors, our police, our firefighters and teachers; they are the people that plow our roads and clean our public buildings. WCTE demands that, in keeping with the venerable progressive traditions of our state, public workers be allowed to retain the bargaining rights that have sustained their professions for decades.

February 21, 2011