Program Entry: Washington

General Teacher Preparation Policy


The state should require teacher preparation programs to admit only candidates with strong academic records and support programs to encourage greater numbers of qualified individuals of color to become teachers. The bar for this goal was raised in 2017.

Nearly meets goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2017). Program Entry: Washington results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of Washington's policies

GPA/Testing Requirement: Washington does not ensure that teacher preparation programs admit only candidates with strong academic backgrounds. The state does not require a minimum GPA for admission to teacher preparation programs. However, Washington requires that an institution is "flagged for possible review" if the average GPA for all incoming students in teacher preparation programs is less than 3.0 or if more than one-third of those incoming students have individual GPAs of below 3.0. However, the consequences for an institution that is flagged for review due to incoming students' GPA reasons is unclear. 

Washington requires that approved undergraduate teacher preparation programs accept only teacher candidates who have passed its basic skills test, Washington Educator Skills Test (WEST-B). Although the state sets the minimum score for this test, it is only normed to the prospective teacher population. Candidates from outside the state may submit passing scores on the Praxis I or on an approved basic skills tests from another state. These tests are also normed to just the prospective teacher population. Washington also allows teacher preparation programs to exempt candidates who demonstrate academic proficiency on the ACT or SAT with scores that are at or above the national average.

Diversity Programs: Washington is implementing a program designed to increase the diversity of its teacher candidates. The state funds and administers the Teacher Shortage Conditional Grant Program that provides teacher candidates with up to $10,000 per academic year. The program gives preference to individuals from underrepresented populations. The state also funds Pilot to Policy Grant: Advancing Systemic Equity, which is a two-year grant of up to $10,000 for educator preparation programs that will pilot work to inform policies and practices related to racial equity, community engagement, and cultural responsiveness.   


Recommendations for Washington

Require that teacher preparation programs screen candidates for academic proficiency prior to admission using more rigorous criteria.
Teacher preparation programs that do not sufficiently screen candidates invest considerable resources in individuals who may not be able to successfully complete the program, pass licensing tests, and ultimately succeed in the classroom. Allowing candidates to qualify for admission by scoring at or above the 50th percentile on the SAT or ACT is a strong admission requirement, but it is weakened by allowing candidates to take the WEST-B or the Praxis I, both of which are normed only to the prospective teacher population. Alternatively, the state could require a minimum grade point average of at least 3.0 for individuals or 3.2 for cohorts of accepted candidates in order to establish that prospective teachers have a strong academic history. Making this GPA threshold a requirement for admission, rather than administering consequences to institutions that fail to meet this bar, enables candidates in need of additional support to complete remediation before entering the program and mitigates the possibility of an unsuccessful investment of significant public resources. Additionally, the state should consider accountability at the level of the individual certification area program, rather than the entire institution, to ensure that each and every program is preparing only candidates with strong academic track records. 

Consider requiring candidates to pass subject-matter tests as a condition of admission into teacher programs.
In addition to ensuring that programs require a measure of academic performance for admission, Washington may also consider requiring subject-matter testing prior to program admission, rather than at the point of program completion. Doing so would provide candidates lacking sufficient subject-matter expertise with an opportunity to remedy deficits prior to entering formal preparation.

State response to our analysis

Washington was helpful in providing NCTQ with the facts necessary for this analysis.

Updated: December 2017

How we graded

1A: Program Entry

  • Rigorous Admissions Requirements: The state should set a clear bar for admission into teacher preparation programs by requiring a minimum 3.0 individual or 3.2 cohort grade point average (GPA), or by limiting admission to candidates scoring in the top half of the entire college-going population on tests of academic proficiency.
  • Support for a Diverse Educator Pipeline: The state should support programs that encourage greater numbers of qualified individuals of color to enter into the teacher pipeline.
Rigorous Admissions Requirements
Three-quarters of the total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • Three-quarters credit: The state will earn the full, three-quarters of a point if preparation programs require a minimum 3.0 individual grade point average (GPA) or a minimum 3.2 cohort GPA for admission, or if admission is limited to applicants scoring in the top half of all college-going students on tests of academic proficiency.
  • One-half credit: The state will earn one-half of a point if it requires a 3.0 cohort GPA, or if it meets the requirements above and also includes a loophole (e.g., requiring either a 3.0 individual GPA or a basic skills test). The state is also eligible to receive half a point if it maintains an individual minimum GPA requirement that is below 3.0 but is at least 2.75.
  • One-quarter credit: The state will earn one-quarter of a point if it caps its admissions requirements at meeting Council for the Accreditation of Education Preparation (CAEP) accreditation requirements, or if it norms its proficiency tests to the aspiring teacher population rather than the general college-going population.
Support for a Diverse Educator Pipeline
One-quarter of the total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • One-quarter credit: The state will earn one-quarter of a point if there is support for programs that are explicitly designed to encourage greater numbers of qualified individuals of color to enter the teacher pipeline.

Research rationale

Evidence is strong that countries whose students consistently outperform U.S. students set a much higher bar for entry to teacher preparation programs than what is typically found in the United States.[1] Far from the top third or even top tenth to which more selective countries limit candidates, most states do not even aim for the top 50 percent.[2] Previous analysis has shown that many states do not require that preparation programs evaluate candidates' academic proficiency as a condition of admission to teacher preparation at all; most others set a low bar by requiring basic skills tests that generally assess middle school-level skills[3] or by requiring a minimum GPA, but too few demand at least a 3.0.

In addition to the low skill level tested by current basic skills tests (e.g., the Praxis Core), another concern is that they are normed only to the prospective teacher population, which does not allow for comparability between prospective teachers and the entire college-bound population. Tests normed to the general college-bound population would shine a clearer light on the academic proficiency of those admitted to teacher preparation programs and allow programs to be truly selective.

While a positive start, CAEP standards are no substitute for states' own policies. CAEP's standards require that the group average performance on nationally normed ability assessments such as ACT, SAT, or GRE be in the top 50th percentile. However, CAEP allows programs the unnecessary freedom to determine whether the minimum criteria will be measured prior to admissions or at some point during the program. Clear state admission policies would send an unequivocal message to programs about the state's expectations for high admissions standards.[4]

Research is clear about the positive effects of teachers with stronger academic backgrounds on student achievement.[5] Higher teacher selectivity, as measured by factors such as SAT/ACT scores,[6] GPA prior to program admission,[7] and an institute of higher education's (IHE) general competitiveness or selectivity,[8] has a significant, positive correlation with student achievement. Some studies support higher academic admissions standards for entry into TPPs, including studies showing a relationship between student achievement and teachers' verbal ability[9] or selectivity of the teachers' college.[10] Although research supports applying greater selectivity when admitting teacher candidates, some recent work has found no correlation between teachers' scores on tests normed to the general college-bound population (e.g., SAT, ACT) or IHE selectivity and student achievement.[11]

States should support increased diversity in the teacher pipeline,[12] in addition to maintaining high admissions standards for teacher preparation programs.[13] Recent data show that 49 percent of students in the US were students of color, while only 17 percent of teachers were teachers of color.[14] Twenty-eight states had gaps between the percentage of students and educators of color that were greater than 25 percentage points.[15] A growing body of research suggests that students of color—students who often face the largest achievement gaps—benefit from having same-race teachers.[16] Exposure to same-race teachers positively benefits student achievement,[17] teachers' expectations and perceptions of students,[18] teachers' assessments and perceptions of student behavior,[19] students' rates of suspension and expulsion,[20] students' assignment to Gifted and Talented programs,[21] and students' perceptions of teachers.[22] Some research suggests that teachers of the same race as their students are more likely to reduce high-school dropout rates as well as increase student attendance and college attendance intent,[23] and improve discipline.[24] Moreover, white students report that they favor teachers of color.[25]

[1] For evidence on international teacher preparation program standards, see Hanushek, E. A., Piopiunik, M., & Wiederhold, S. (2014). The value of smarter teachers: International evidence on teacher cognitive skills and student performance (National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. w20727).; Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development. (2005). Recruiting, selecting and employing teachers. Teachers Matter: Attracting, Developing and Retaining Effective Teachers (pp. 141-167). Paris, France: OECD Publishing.; Whitehurst, G. J. (2002). Scientifically based research on teacher quality: Research on teacher preparation and professional development. White House Conference on Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers, 39-53. Retrieved from
[2] For evidence on teacher preparation programs' admissions selectivity, see Auguste, B., Kihn, P., & Miller, M. (2010). Closing the talent gap: Attracting and retaining top-third graduates to careers in teaching. Washington, DC. Retrieved from
[3] For evidence on teacher preparation program admissions exams, see The Education Trust. (1999). Not good enough: A content analysis of teacher licensing examinations. Thinking K-16, 3(1), 1-24.
[4] For more on the need for states to set their own expectations, rather than relying on CAEP's standards and enforcement, see See Walsh, K., Joseph, N., & Lewis, A. (2016, November). Within our grasp: Achieving higher admissions standards in teacher prep. 2016 State Teacher Policy Yearbook Report Series. Retrieved from
[5] For reviews of the relevant literature, see Hanushek, E. A., & Rivkin, S. G. (2006). Teacher quality. In E. A. Hanushek & F. Welch (Eds.), Handbook of the Economics of Education (Vol. 2, pp. 1051-1078). Amsterdam: Elsevier B.V.; Wayne, A. J., & Youngs, P. (2003). Teacher characteristics and student achievement gains: A review. Review of Educational Research, 73(1), 89-122.; Rice, J. K. (2003). Teacher quality: Understanding the effectiveness of teacher attributes. Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute.; Greenwald, R., Hedges, L. V, & Laine, R. D. (1996). The effect of school resources on student achievement. Review of Educational Research, 66(3), 361-396.; Boardman, A. E., Davis, O. A., & Sanday, P. R. (1977). A simultaneous equation model of the educational process. Journal of Public Economics, 7, 23-49.
[6] Boyd, D., Lankford, H., Loeb, S., Rockoff, J., & Wyckoff, J. (2008). The narrowing gap in New York City teacher qualifications and its implications for student achievement in high-poverty schools. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 27(4), 793-818. 
[7] Steele, J. L., Pepper, M. J., Springer, M. G., & Lockwood, J. R. (2015). The distribution and mobility of effective teachers: Evidence from a large, urban school district. Economics of Education Review, 48, 86-101.; Kukla-Acevedo, S. (2009). Do teacher characteristics matter? New results on the effects of teacher preparation on student achievement. Economics of Education Review, 28(1), 49-57. 
[8] Lincove, J. A., Osborne, C., Mills, N., & Bellows, L. (2015). Teacher preparation for profit or prestige. Journal of Teacher Education, 66(5), 415-434.; Steele, J. L., Pepper, M. J., Springer, M. G., & Lockwood, J. R. (2015). The distribution and mobility of effective teachers: Evidence from a large, urban school district. Economics of Education Review, 48, 86-101.; Clotfelter, C. T., Ladd, H. F., & Vigdor, J. L. (2010). Teacher credentials and student achievement in high school: A cross-subject analysis with student fixed effects. Journal of Human Resources, 45(3), 655-681.
[9] Kain, J. F., & Singleton, K. (1996). Equality of educational opportunity revisited. New England Economic Review, (Special issue), 87-111.; Ehrenberg, R. G., & Brewer, D. J. (1995). Did teachers' verbal ability and race matter in the 1960s? Coleman revisited. Economics of Education Review, 14(1), 1-21.; Ehrenberg, R. G., & Brewer, D. J. (1994). Do school and teacher characteristics matter? Evidence from high school and beyond. Economics of Education Review, 13(1), 1-17.; Hanushek, E. A. (1971). Teacher characteristics and gains in student achievement: Estimation using micro data. American Economic Review, 61(2), 280-288.; Bowles, S. (1970). Towards an educational production function. In W. L. Hanson (Ed.), Education, Income, and Human Capital (pp. 11-70). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economics.; Levin, H. M. (1970). A cost-effectiveness analysis of teacher selection. The Journal of Human Resources, 5(1), 24-33.; In contrast, a recent analysis of studies that examine teachers' verbal ability notes that the relationship and evidence are weak. See: Aloe, A. M., & Becker, B. J. (2009). Teacher verbal ability and school outcomes: Where is the evidence? Educational Researcher, 38(8), 612-624.; Studies that measure verbal ability through SAT scores (e.g., Ferguson, 1991; Ferguson & Ladd, 1996), however, are not included in Aloe and Becker's analysis.
[10] Master, B., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2014). Learning that lasts: Unpacking variation in teachers' effects on students' long-term knowledge (Calder Working Paper No. 104). Retrieved from; Ehrenberg, R. G., & Brewer, D. J. (1994). Do school and teacher characteristics matter? Evidence from high school and beyond. Economics of Education Review, 13(1), 1-17.; Ferguson, R. F. (1991). Paying for public education: New evidence on how and why money matters. Harvard Journal on Legislation, 28, 465-498.; Summers, A. A., & Wolfe, B. L. (1977). Do schools make a difference? American Economic Review, 67(4), 639-652.; Winkler, D. R. (1975). Educational achievement and school peer group composition. Journal of Human Resources, 10(2), 189-204.
[11] Koedel, C., Parsons, E., Podgursky, M., & Ehlert, M. (2015). Teacher preparation programs and teacher quality: Are there real differences across programs? Education Finance and Policy, 10(4), 508-534.; Henry, G. T., Campbell, S. L., Thompson, C. L., Patriarca, L. A., Luterbach, K. J., Lys, D. B., & Covington, V. M. (2013). The predictive validity of measures of teacher candidate programs and performance. Journal of Teacher Education, 64(5), 439-453.; Harris, D. N., & Sass, T. R. (2011). Teacher training, teacher quality and student achievement. Journal of Public Economics, 95(7-8), 798-812.; Kane, T. J., Rockoff, J. E., & Staiger, D. O. (2008). What does certification tell us about teacher effectiveness? Evidence from New York City. Economics of Education Review, 27(6), 615-631.; Rockoff, J. E., Jacob, B. A., Kane, T. J., & Staiger, D. O. (2011). Can you recognize an effective teacher when you recruit one? Education Finance and Policy, 6(1), 43-74.
[12] For reviews of the relevant literature, see Ingersoll, R., & May, H. (2011). Recruitment, retention and the minority teacher shortage. CPRE Research Report (Vol. #RR-69). Retrieved from; Guarino, C. M., Santibanez, L., & Daley, G. A. (2006). Teacher recruitment and retention: A review of the recent empirical literature. Review of Educational Research, 76(2), 173-208.
[13] Given the decline in academic performance and diversity of aspiring teachers, as documented by the ACT's (2015) annual report, "The Condition of Future Educators," prep programs must make a deliberate effort to attract and prepare the best candidates. For the most recent NCTQ analysis of undergraduate elementary teacher preparation programming, see: National Council on Teacher Quality. (2016). A closer look at selection criteria: Undergraduate elementary programs. Retrieved from; For the most recent NCTQ analysis of undergraduate secondary teacher preparation programming, see: National Council on Teacher Quality. (2017). A closer look at selection criteria: Secondary undergraduate programs. Retrieved from
[14] For information on teaching staffing, see: National Center for Education Statistics. (2012). Schools and staffing survey: Teacher questionnaire, 2011-12. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.
[15] Boser, U. (2014). Teacher diversity revisited. Washington, DC: Center for American Progress. Retrieved from
[16] For a review of the relevant literature, see: Stewart, J., Meier, K. J., & England, R. E. (2014). In quest of role models: Change in black teacher representation in urban school districts 1968 - 1986. Journal of Negro Education, 58(2), 140-152.; Villegas, A. M., & Lucas, T. F. (2005). Diversifying the teacher workforce: A retrospective and prospective analysis. Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, 103(1), 70-104.
[17] Egalite, A. J., Kisida, B., & Winters, M. A. (2015). Representation in the classroom: The effect of own-race teachers on student achievement. Economics of Education Review, 45, 44-52.; Goldhaber, D., & Hansen, M. (2010). Race, gender, and teacher testing: How informative a tool Is teacher licensure testing? American Educational Research Journal, 47.; Dee, T. S. (2004). Teachers, race, and student achievement in a randomized experiment. Review of Economics and Statistics, 86(1), 195-210. 
[18] Fox, L. (2016). Seeing potential: The effects of student-teacher demographic congruence on teacher expectations and recommendations. AERA Open, 2(1), 1-17.; Gershenson, S., Holt, S. B., & Papageorge, N. W. (2016). Who believes in me? The effect of student/teacher demographic match on teacher expectations. Economics of Education Review, 52, 209-224.; Burgess, S., & Greaves, E. (2013). Test scores, subjective assessment, and stereotyping of ethnic minorities. Journal of Labor Economics, 31(3), 535-576.; McGrady, P. B., & Reynolds, J. R. (2013). Racial mismatch in the classroom: Beyond black-white differences. Sociology of Education, 86(1), 3-17.; Dee, T. S. (2004).; Teachers, race, and student achievement in a randomized experiment. Review of Economics and Statistics, 86(1), 195-210. 
[19] Bates, L. A., & Glick, J. E. (2013). Does it matter if teachers and schools match the student? Racial and ethnic disparities in problem behaviors. Social Science Research, 42(5), 1180-1190.; Downey, D. B., & Pribesh, S. (2004). When race matters: Teachers' evaluations of students' classroom behavior. Sociology of Education, 77(4), 267-282.
[20] Lindsay, C. A., & Hart, C. M. D. (2017). Exposure to same-race teachers and student disciplinary outcomes for black students in North Carolina. Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 0162373717693109.
[21] Grissom, J. A., & Redding, C. (2016). Discretion and disproportionality. AERA Open, 2(1), 1-25.
[22] Egalite, A. J., & Kisida, B. (in press). The effects of teacher match on students' academic perceptions and attitudes. Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 0162373717714056.
[23] Gershenson, S., Hart, C. M. D., Lindsay, C. A., & Papageorge, N. W. (2017). The long-run impacts of same-race teachers (Discussion Paper No. 10630). Retrieved from; Hess, F., & Leal, D. (1997). Minority teachers, minority students, and college matriculation: A new look at the role-modeling hypothesis. Policy Studies Journal, 25(2), 235-248.
[24] Holt, S. B., & Gershenson, S. (2015). The impact of teacher demographic representation on student attendance and suspensions (Discussion Paper No. 9554). Retrieved from
[25] Egalite, A. J., & Kisida, B. (in press). The effects of teacher match on students' academic perceptions and attitudes. Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis.