Recruit and Retain: The Future of Education

Teacher Certification in Wisconsin

Wisconsin requires all public school teachers, including those who work at charter schools, to hold state credentials.

Typically teachers hold licensures. There are special circumstances where they may instead hold permits.

A prospective teacher must meet degree and program requirements in order to achieve licensure. Programs may be offered at the baccalaureate, post-baccalaureate, or master's level. Programs for individuals who already hold academic degrees may or may not confer new degrees. There are multiple recognized pathways, though not all carry the same level of portability. The minimum educational level is, in most cases, the bachelor's degree.

The bachelor’s pathway is for individuals who do not yet have academic degrees and must earn them in conjunction with their teaching preparation. An individual seeking licensure through this pathway will complete an approved Wisconsin Educator preparation. The Department of Public Instruction has provided a link to search for programs (

A teacher can also be licensed on the basis of a comparable academic program that was approved in another state, but there will be additional requirements along the way; this is considered a separate pathway.

Licenses denote subject areas and grade levels. An elementary/ middle school credential can authorize teaching school grades through 9th grade while an early childhood credential can authorize teaching for any age through 3rd grade ( There are a number of different licenses available for teaching in middle grade or high school; these authorize teaching at 4th grade and above. Some special subject licenses are valid for all grades PreK-12. Special education licenses are K-12. Prospective educators complete training specific to their teaching discipline, though they may add additional license areas later. The Department of Public Instruction has provided answers to frequently asked questions about what classes can be taught by individuals with particular license types (

Recognizing that many states issue their elementary credentials at different grade levels, the Wisconsin Department of Education has provided information for elementary candidates prepared out of state (

A Wisconsin student can expect required assessments to be integrated within the program. Wisconsin now requires the edTPA, a portfolio-based assessment. This assesses the teacher's ability to plan, provide instruction, assess students, and reflect on his or her own practices.

Elementary, special education, and reading teachers will need to take the Foundations of Reading Test. This is a computer-delivered assessment, available through Pearson ( The Department of Public Instruction notes that it is required not only of first-time teachers but of those who wish to add a license in one of these teaching areas.

Subject area competency, on the other hand, can be demonstrated in any of several ways: GPA, examination or portfolio ( Most Wisconsin subject area assessments are part of the ETS Praxis Series.

Additional Pathways for Degree Holders

Alternative route programs are designed to prepare individuals who already hold degrees for licensure in shortage areas ( For some instructional areas, there is a requirement that the individual already hold a degree in the subject area. Individuals using the alternative pathway can be employed as teachers under emergency credentials while completing the program.

Teachers who already hold Wisconsin licensure can use the alternative pathway to attain licensure in a new instructional area, one where a shortage exists.

Licensure by equivalency is designed for professionals who already have at least three years of experience teaching. The teaching experience may have been attained in any of a variety of settings, including private schools and post-secondary institutions. A teacher whose experience fits this pathway will work with the Wisconsin Department of Education or other approved provider (

Montessori Pathway

Wisconsin has a pathway specifically for Montessori teachers. They will need to have completed a program accredited by either the Montessori Accreditation Council of Teacher Education or Montessori International. In order to be licensed to teach Montessori in Wisconsin public schools, the teacher will need to complete Wisconsin assessments, including edTPA.

Permits for Experienced Professionals with Degrees in Shortage Fields

Wisconsin issues permits to degreed professionals who have at least five years of experience in a field that corresponds to a shortage area. Currently, these areas are math, science, engineering, computer science, music, art, and world languages. Candidates will need 100 hours of curricula-related instruction. They will need to pass assessments in their subject areas.

Out-of-State Applicants

The out-of-state pathway includes online colleges located in other states. A prospective teacher who completes an out-of-state program may have additional/ higher testing requirements -- this depends on the other state's regulations. The candidate will need to pass the license-qualifying tests in the state where the program was located.

Current/ recent out-of-state graduates will need to meet the edTPA performance assessment requirement. The edTPA is an expectation at many out-of-state schools but is far from universal. The Wisconsin licensing authority will accept scores at the level required in the other state provided that the other state did indeed set a cut-off score.

In actuality, there are multiple pathways for individuals who trained as teachers in other states. Those who qualified on the basis of nonstandard methods (e.g. those who were licensed on the basis of alternative programs or equivalency) are not eligible for the standard out-of-state pathway, but may be eligible for any of several alternative Wisconsin pathways. Reciprocity may be granted to a licensee with at least a year of teaching. Equivalency may be granted to a teacher with several years of experience, even if he or she does not hold current licensing. The alternative pathway or post-baccalaureate pathway may be appropriate ( The individual may opt to have a Wisconsin educator preparation program perform a credential review.

The Application Process

Wisconsin has an electronic licensing system, the ELO System. Applicants will need to make electronic copies of some documents. The Department website includes instructions for applicants utilizing the various pathways.

The licensing authority conducts background checks. Fingerprints are required of individuals who have resided, worked, or gone to school (after age 17 and within the prior 20 years) in US states or territories other than Wisconsin. This requirement also applies to Canada and British countries. Wisconsin has an approved vendor. Directions can be found on the website of the licensing authority.

Additional Information

Information is available from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction ( Licensing updates are posted on the Latest Licensing News Blog ( The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction notes there have been a number of recent changes. Questions can be directed to Educator Licensing via email contact form (