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Milwaukee Pursues Alternative Certification for Special Educators

Like many districts around the country, Milwaukee is facing a shortage of special education teachers. But the way the 82,000-student district has chosen to address the problem—hiring a corps of teachers who come through alternative certification programs—is raising some eyebrows. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper produced a good piece on the topic:

There aren't enough fully licensed special education teachers to go around, so the district leans on alternative-route teacher certification programs that allow teachers to work toward full licensure while teaching with "emergency" credentials...

Representatives of emergency-credential programs say that the intensive summer training covers enough ground and that they offer a full support system throughout the school year to ensure the teachers-in-training are successful.

Other experts and advocates argue that a few weeks of preparation over the summer—and even less time for teachers who start training in the winter—isn't enough to help individuals—regardless of their passion and motivation, deal with the often profound needs of special-education students.

The entire article can be found here. After you read the story, I'd love to hear what you think about the district's hiring initiative. My first thoughts: the article, appropriately, touches on the training that these newbie teachers get before they enter the classroom. I appreciate the honesty of the teacher who said he was at least as qualified as a long-term substitute, but that's a fairly low bar.

But, I'm also interested in the level of support that the new teachers get after the training program and once they're in a classroom. With these shortages in the profession, who are the experienced teachers serving as mentors, and how much are they working with novice teachers while supervising their own classes?

EDITED 9/2: This article was a collaboration between the Journal Sentinel newspaper and the Hechinger Report, a nonprofit news organization for education journalism. A longer version of the article was posted on the Hechinger Report website and is available here.

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