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.
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.
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.
Washington was helpful in providing NCTQ with the facts necessary for this analysis.
1A: Program Entry
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. 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. 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 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.
Research is clear about the positive effects of teachers with stronger academic backgrounds on student achievement. Higher teacher selectivity, as measured by factors such as SAT/ACT scores, GPA prior to program admission, and an institute of higher education's (IHE) general competitiveness or selectivity, 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 or selectivity of the teachers' college. 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.
States should support increased diversity in the teacher pipeline, in addition to maintaining high admissions standards for teacher preparation programs. 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. Twenty-eight states had gaps between the percentage of students and educators of color that were greater than 25 percentage points. A growing body of research suggests that students of color—students who often face the largest achievement gaps—benefit from having same-race teachers. Exposure to same-race teachers positively benefits student achievement, teachers' expectations and perceptions of students, teachers' assessments and perceptions of student behavior, students' rates of suspension and expulsion, students' assignment to Gifted and Talented programs, and students' perceptions of teachers. 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, and improve discipline. Moreover, white students report that they favor teachers of color.