UW-Madison announces Teacher Pledge program extension through 2029 - TAI News
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A program that covers tuition and other expenses for prospective teachers attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison is being extended for another academic year, the university announced April 22.

The UW-Madison School of Education’s entirely donor-funded Teacher Pledge program pays in-state tuition and fees and testing and licensing expenses for students enrolled in the university’s teacher education programs, provided they commit to working in public or private Wisconsin schools for at least four years. The requirement drops to three years for teaching what the organizers call high-need subjects or in high-need school districts.

According to UW-Madison, $8 million in new donor funding means the program will now continue at least through the 2028-2029 academic year.

The Teacher Pledge program was kicked off in fall 2020. As of spring 2024, 773 students have participated in it, UW-Madison says, with 354 of those already teaching in Wisconsin schools.

The program was originally only set to run through 2025. A one-year extension was confirmed in 2022, and more donations last year and this year — including $5 million from authors Susan and James Patterson — now mean the program has been extended three times.

As of April 2024, the School of Education has received $33.3 million in donations to fund the Teacher Pledge.

The program is intended to help address Wisconsin’s continuing struggle to attract and retain teachers. According to a Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction report released April 11, only about 4,000 of the 5,000 people who completed an educator preparation program in Wisconsin during the 2021-2022 academic year actually went on to be licensed to teach, and just 3,400 of them ultimately were employed in a Wisconsin public school.

About 40% of Wisconsin teachers leave the profession or the state by the end of their first six years on the job.

“I know how difficult teaching can be, especially when you are getting started,” Wisconsin School of Education Dean Diana Hess said in the university’s announcement. “If teachers work in the classroom for three or four years, we believe they will gain confidence in their abilities, better enjoy the important work they are doing with students, and stick with the profession longer.”

UW-Madison says the program has made a teaching career possible for many students who might have otherwise struggled with costs in a profession that, according to the DPI’s report, paid below the average salary for a bachelor’s degree-holder in Wisconsin as of 2022.

“The last thing you want if you are going to become a teacher is to worry about getting into a lot of debt,” UW-Madison student Erika Silva-Singh said in the school’s announcement. “The Teacher Pledge was huge and gave me the peace of mind to pursue becoming a teacher.”

Maddy Rauls, an alumna who now works as an elementary school teacher in Waunakee, said she had to work as a day care provider in addition to attending classes when she started at UW-Madison to try to keep student loans at a manageable level. “Before the Teacher Pledge came around, I was really worried about how much debt I was going to have to take on to finish school,” she said. “Taking the Teacher Pledge was a no-brainer. It was a huge relief.”

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