(The Center Square) – A reform group in Wisconsin wants to take what works for plumbers and get it to work for teachers.
The Institute for Reforming Government has been working since last spring to create teacher apprenticeships in the state.
“Simply put, Wisconsin’s teacher pipeline is leaking everywhere. Too few people want to become teachers. Too few varieties of people want to become teachers. Too few people who enter a teaching degree program end up becoming teachers. Too many teachers who do make it quit right away,” IRG’s Quinton Klabon said. “The result is obviously bad for schools. Rural and urban districts leave jobs unfilled. Suburban districts have five candidates per job instead of 20. And when you don’t have a lot to pick from, that lowers the quality of teaching that your child is getting. In fact, 13% of teachers are in their first or second years in Wisconsin, when all research shows teachers are still figuring it out. A real factor in Wisconsin’s low test scores may be that 1 in 10 kids has a rookie teacher.”
IRG is pushing for legislation that would allow teacher apprenticeships. Currently, 28 other states allow for apprenticeships.
IRG’s plan would give new or want-to-be teachers two years learning how to teach their subject and manage a classroom, then two years of student teaching under a master teacher.
“Student teaching is like the mini-version of apprenticeships. A senior gets 1 semester of practice in a real school under the mentorship of a senior teacher … except instead of getting paid, they pay thousands in tuition to do it. Apprenticeships could help get college students paid for around 2 years of student teaching while receiving the benefits of Wisconsin’s incredibly strong apprentice program. Our major employers have helped us make electricians and nurses the best they can be, and they can help do the same for educators,” Klabon added.
Klabon said apprenticeships can also reduce the costs for new teachers by cutting their debt and giving them a chance to “earn as they learn” during their final two years of college.
The proposal is making its way through the Capitol in Madison, but it’s not just lawmakers that will have a say.
Klabon said the Institute is working with the Department of Public Instruction and the Department of Workforce Development to get buy-in from the Evers administration.
“IRG has been working on this since March 2023. In that time, DPI and DWD have taken huge strides to make this a reality, though they have their own vision,” Klabon explained. “It’s mostly about two things: How do we help regulations designed for plumbers work for educators? How do we make sure we’re actually producing teachers in a more effective and more efficient way? If the legislature and department leaders work together, they can create a win-win for families and teachers alike.”