Several Wisconsin news outlets have highlighted a new partnership between the UW–Madison School of Education and Milwaukee Public Schools that aims to combat a shortage of special education teachers in one of the state’s most high-needs school districts.
The new program, which began recruiting students earlier this month, aims to train and place 36 master’s-level special education teachers in Milwaukee schools over the next five years. It is the second iteration of the UW–Madison Special Education Teacher Residency Program, which first launched in 2018.
During the 14-month program, students will pair on-the-job training through a 10-month teaching residency in Milwaukee with a master’s-level teacher preparation program at UW–Madison. At the end of the program, the residents will be eligible for a master’s degree and Wisconsin licensure as a K-12 special education teacher. In addition to training and mentorship, residents in the program are provided a one-year living stipend of $46,500. In return, they agree to teach in a Milwaukee Public Schools school for three years following completion of the program.
Stories about the new initiative were recently published by Wisconsin Public Radio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and WUWM. Kimber Wilkerson, a professor in the School of Education’s Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education and a leader of the initiative, was quoted in all of the stories.
In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story, Wilkerson said the program is hoping to recruit from a mixture of existing staff at Milwaukee Public Schools, including paraeducators, as well as recent college graduates and people hoping to make a career change.
“We’re trying to make it as attractive and as doable as possible,” Wilkerson said, referencing the program’s stipend and the potential for tuition and expenses to be covered by the UW–Madison School of Education Wisconsin Teacher Pledge Program. “We don’t want finances to be the reason that someone decides not to do it.”
In the Wisconsin Public Radio and WUWM stories, Wilkerson pointed out special education jobs have been especially difficult for school districts to fill in recent years.
“Special education has always had shortages, and now that there are shortages across all of the teaching areas, special ed has been hit even harder,” she told Wisconsin Public Radio. “It makes the districts all the more grateful to have well-prepared people who are committed to staying. But I look forward to evolving back to a place where it is easier to attract people into the profession.”
“I would argue those positions are the most critical to be filled with people who are well-prepared and strong in their jobs, in order to do right by kids with disabilities,” she told WUWM.
Applications and additional information related to the UW–Madison Special Education Teacher Residency Program can be found at https://uwteacherresidency.org/.