The state should close loopholes that allow teachers who have not met licensure requirements to continue teaching. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.
Emergency License(s) Availability: Washington allows teachers who have not met licensure requirements to teach under two limited teaching certificates. The first is a conditional teacher certificate that 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.
The second 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 not yet qualified for the residency certificate.
Emergency License Validity Period: Washington's conditional teacher certificate is valid for up to two years. The conditional certificate can be renewed for an additional two years with the completion of sixty clock hours (six quarter hours or four semester hours) of coursework since the issuance of the most recent certificate. The number of renewals allowed for the conditional teacher certificate is unclear. The emergency certificate is valid for one year, and is non-renewable, except that it may be renewed once for special education teachers.
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, because it enables adults who may not be able to meet minimal state standards to earn teaching licenses. Washington should ensure that all teachers are required to pass licensing tests — an important minimum benchmark for entering the profession —before entering the classroom as the teacher of record.
Limit exceptions to one year.
Although suboptimal, there may be limited and exceptional circumstances under which conditional or emergency licenses are necessary. 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.
Washington asserted that it does not award a standard license to a teacher who has not passed all required content licensing tests.
6B: Provisional and Emergency Licensure
Teachers who have not passed content licensing tests place students at risk. While states may need a regulatory basis for filling classroom positions with a few people who do not hold full teaching credentials, many of the regulations permitting this put the instructional needs of children at risk, often year after year. For example, schools can make liberal use of provisional certificates or waivers provided by the state if they fill classroom positions with instructors who have completed a teacher preparation program but have not passed their state licensing tests. These allowances are permitted for up to three years in some states. The unfortunate consequence is that students' needs are neglected in an effort to extend personal consideration to adults who cannot meet minimum state standards.
While some flexibility may be necessary because licensing tests are not always administered with the needed frequency, making provisional certificates and waivers available year after year could signal that the state does not put much value on its licensing standards or what they represent. States accordingly need to ensure that all persons given full charge of children's learning are required to pass the relevant licensing tests in their first year of teaching, ideally before they enter the classroom. Licensing tests are an important minimum benchmark in the profession, and states that allow teachers to postpone passing these tests are abandoning one of the basic responsibilities of licensure.