Like many other states, Washington is facing a teacher shortage across subject areas, geographic locations, and demographics.1 This shortage has been evident for several years, becoming more acute around 2014.2
Washington's Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB) is an agency responsible for policies and oversight relating to educator preparation, certification, assignment, and development in Washington state. To get an accurate picture of the state's educator workforce shortages and respond effectively with evidence-based policies, PESB reached out to REL Northwest to seek assistance and collaborate in two ways. First, REL Northwest researchers coached PESB staff and workgroups on innovative approaches to develop surveys, analyze data, and inform the development of research-based policies to recruit and retain diverse teachers. Second, PESB partnered with REL Northwest to conduct two studies. One study focused on Washington state's teacher preparation and career pathway–especially where teacher candidates of color are most likely to exit. The second study focused on Washington educators with limited teaching certificates and the barriers that prevent them from earning full certification.
Among the many study findings, PESB and REL Northwest learned that more than two-thirds of Washington teachers with limited certificates–or short-term temporary licenses to teach–were interested in becoming fully certificated and that most wanted to teach in high-need subject areas such as bilingual education, special education, and reading. We also learned that teacher candidates of color were significantly more likely than White candidates to leave the teacher preparation and career pathway at certain steps, such as when candidates were required to pass assessments like the Washington Educator Skills Test–Basic.
Equipped with this evidence, PESB began to explore responsive policy options in an effort to increase teacher diversity and alleviate shortages. In 2020, PESB launched a pilot to offer educator candidates multiple alternative ways to demonstrate their knowledge and skills instead of relying on previously required assessments.3 Additionally, Washington Governor Jay Inslee removed the Washington Educator Skills Test–Basic test score requirement in 2019.4 In 2021, Washington passed a law removing the state requirement that teacher candidates must pass the edTPA, a performance assessment.5 With these changes, PESB will continue to monitor teacher certification requirements to prevent unnecessary barriers for people who want to teach while giving students in Washington access to excellent, diverse teachers.
REL Northwest coaching has equipped PESB with tools to gather and assess accurate, comprehensive data, which can help determine whether and to what extent policy changes correlate with an increase in educator diversity or in educators with limited certificates earning full certification. Looking ahead, PESB plans to continue collecting and analyzing data to understand the effectiveness of policies that respond to teacher shortages and identify opportunities to strengthen Washington's educator workforce.
Data collection and analysis are essential for understanding the experiences of educators and teacher candidates, including shortages in the workforce, and for creating policies that respond to those realities. With a clear vision of what's happening on the ground, agencies like PESB can create targeted responses to support and retain diverse educators. The strong partnership between PESB and REL Northwest connected policymakers to actionable research and helped inform decisions that support our educators, our communities, and our students.
Alexandra Manuel is the executive director of the Washington state Professional Educator Standards Board.
Jason Greenberg Motamedi is a practice expert at Education Northwest. His research supports educators in the Pacific Northwest and across the country in the areas of English learner student instruction and related issues, such as teacher development for bilingual and dual-language instruction.
1 Johnson, M., Manuel, A., Geiger, B., Smith, C., Parker, C., Peck, E., Busbee, J., Ryu, J., Malik, M., Keskey, S., & Moreland, V. (2019). The data and the story: Educator shortage in Washington state.
2 Washington Professional Educator Standards Board. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from https://www.pesb.wa.gov/.
3 Washington Professional Educator Standards Board. (2019). The data and the story: Educator shortage in Washington state. Retrieved from https://drive.google.com/
4 Washington Professional Educator Standards Board. (2020, July 22). New pilot will explore flexibility for the edTPA. Retrieved October 1, 2021, from https://content.govdelivery.com/.
5 Washington Professional Educator Standards Board. (2019). Governor Inslee signs bill increasing access to teacher preparation programs. Retrieved December 22, 2020, from https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/WAOSPI/bulletins/240aeda. 2.S.H.B. 1028, 67th Leg., Reg. Sess. (Wash. 2021). Retrieved April 26, 2021, from http://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/
Jason Greenberg Motamedi