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Legislative Update

Bill draft would expand alternative pathway to FORT for teacher license candidates

by | Oct 16, 2023 | Legislative Update Blog, State Issue

State Rep. Jeff Mursau (R-Crivitz, pictured), along with Senator Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma) and Rep. James Edming (R-Glen Flora) have put out a bill draft for other legislators to sign on to show their support (co-sponsorship memo). The bill draft (LRB 2218/1) would expand the ability of all teacher license candidates to demonstrate competency in reading instruction outside of passing the Foundations of Reading Test (FORT). Currently, this alternative pathway is only available to special education initial licensees.
The WASB supports this bill draft (WASB Resolution 4.61 (d), see below*) and encourages school leaders to contact your state legislators to ask them to sign on to LRB 2218/1 from Rep. Mursau. The deadline for legislators to sign on to this bill is 5pm on Wednesday, Oct. 25. After this deadline, the bill will be formally introduced in each house and given bill numbers (e.g., Assembly/Senate Bill XXX). The more legislators that sign on to the bill, the more likely it will be able to move through the legislative process.

The WASB thanks Rep. Mursau, Sen. Felzkowski and Rep. Edming for authoring this important proposal in an environment of teacher supply challenges for school districts.

Passing the FORT examination can be a costly and time-consuming process, with a relatively high failure rate, especially among teacher license applicants of color and applicants whose first language is not English. There is also little credible evidence that passing the FORT exam, by itself, improves teacher performance or produces any positive impact on students’ literacy skills or reading achievement.

Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau
Under current law, an applicant for certain initial teaching licenses, as a condition for receiving the license, must pass an examination identical to the Foundations of Reading test, commonly called the FORT, in addition to all other requirements for licensure by the Department of Public Instruction. The FORT requirement applies to the following licenses:

1. An initial teaching license that authorizes the holder to teach in grades kindergarten to five.
2. An initial teaching license that authorizes the holder to teach in special education.
3. An initial license as a reading teacher.
4. An initial license as a reading specialist.

Current law also provides an exception to the FORT requirement for an applicant for a special education initial teaching license, under which the applicant may demonstrate to DPI that the applicant completed a course of study in the teaching of reading and reading comprehension, rather than passing the FORT. This bill extends the exception currently available only to applicants for a special education initial teaching license to applicants for all licenses to which the FORT requirement applies. Specifically, the bill expands the exception to applicants for a license to teach in grades kindergarten to five, an initial license as a reading teacher, and an initial license as a reading specialist. Under current law and the bill, a teacher who passes the FORT exam must notify DPI and DPI must add a notation to the teacher’s license indicating that the teacher passed the FORT.

*-WASB Resolution 4.61 Shortages
In cases of limited professional staff supply there should be restraint in any program which will prohibitively restrict certification in special subject areas. (1960-7)

(d) FORT Requirement for Educators
The WASB supports legislation to provide all teaching license applicants with an alternative pathway to licensure that does not require passage of the Foundations of Reading Test (FORT). (2023-10)

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