Licensure Loopholes: Washington

Exiting Ineffective Teachers Policy


The state should close loopholes that allow teachers who have not met licensure requirements to continue teaching.

Does not meet goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Licensure Loopholes: Washington results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of Washington's policies

Washington allows teachers who have not met licensure requirements to teach under two limited teaching certificates. First, the conditional teacher certificate allows local districts to hire an individual with expertise in the area if a certified teacher in a specific endorsement area is not available. The teacher must enroll in professional development coursework to enhance competencies, and the certificate is valid for up to two years. Second, the state allows districts to hire individuals to teach under an emergency certificate if a certificated teacher is unavailable. To qualify for an emergency certificate, an individual must have substantially completed a preparation program but has not yet qualified for the residency certificate. The emergency certificate is valid for one year.


Recommendations for Washington

Ensure that all teachers pass required subject-matter licensing tests before they enter the classroom.
All students are entitled to teachers who know the subject matter they are teaching. Permitting individuals who have not yet passed state licensing tests to teach neglects the needs of students, instead extending personal consideration to adults who may not be able to meet minimal state standards. Washington should ensure that all teachers pass licensing tests— an important minimum benchmark for entering the profession—before entering the classroom.

Limit exceptions to one year.
There might be limited and exceptional circumstances under which conditional or emergency licenses need to be granted. In these instances, it is reasonable for a state to give teachers up to one year to pass required licensing tests. Washington's current policy puts students at risk by allowing teachers to teach on a conditional certificate for two years without passing required licensing tests.

Further, Washington's licensure loopholes are especially worrisome because the state has strong subject-matter requirements for elementary teachers that are potentially sabotaged by the fact that teachers who have not passed licensure tests are allowed to be in the classroom for up to two years.

State response to our analysis

Washington recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.

Research rationale

Research has shown that "the difference in student performance in a single academic year from having a good as opposed to a bad teacher can be more than one full year of standardized achievement." See E. Hanushek, "The Trade-Off between Child Quantity and Quality," The Journal of Political Economy 100 No. 1 (1992): 84-117. Hanushek has also found that highly effective teachers can improve future student earnings by more than $400,000, assuming a class of 20.  "The Economic Value of Higher Teacher Quality." National Bureau of Economic Research. Working Paper 16606 (2010).