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Wisconsin educators look to retain teachers amid shortage

MADISON, Wis. — Education leaders in Wisconsin are studying how to retain teachers and attract new ones as unfilled vacancies for teaching jobs stack up in the state.

The University of Wisconsin System recently announced a task force to study teacher education enrollments and incentives, Wisconsin Public Radio reported. The task force hopes to produce recommendations by May 1.

“We know that nationally, enrollment in teacher education programs is down about 35 percent and in Wisconsin it is down more dramatically in some places,” said Diana Hess, dean of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Education. She’s also a leader in the newly formed UW System Task Force for Advancing Teachers and School Leaders.

Students face challenges such as debt and poverty that prevent some from pursuing and entering a teaching career. Meanwhile, others may turn to another career path because of the focus on classroom testing or perceptions that they’re not as valued as other professions.

“What we’re experiencing here is not dissimilar to what’s happening across the country,” Hess said.

Wisconsin’s teacher shortage led to the loosening of restrictions in 2016 to allow educators to teach subjects that they might not have credentials in, and to expand pathways to the classroom for applicants who went through an alternative certification program.

Hess expressed concern that Wisconsin’s existing teacher shortage could get worse based on declining enrollment data for the state’s teacher education programs.

Madison Teachers Inc., the teacher’s union for Madison’s public school system, has been working to retain teachers because many are leaving the district before they’re ready to retire, according to Andrew Waity, an elementary teacher and the union’s president.

Waity said the union has heard complaints about pay from some who have left the profession, as well as concerns about accountability.

“It feels more and more that teachers have less say in what they get to do,” Waity said.

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