Recruit and Retain: The Future of Education

Teacher Certification in Washington State

Teaching is a career for bachelor’s and graduate level professionals who complete discipline-specific training and demonstrate that they can teach. Washington teachers work under different types and levels of credential, including provisional, residency, and professional. The professional license carries stringent state-specific requirements.

Educators hold endorsements, denoting the areas they are qualified to teach. Elementary and early childhood credentials are generalist.

Washington issues three middle level endorsements: humanities, mathematics, and science. Many endorsements are issued for all grades. Included are six designated arts endorsements, designated world languages, and additional subjects such as computer science and health and fitness. Washington, like many states, has multiple music endorsements. Also recognized are theater, dance, and visual art.

The Washington Office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) issues four designated secondary science endorsements and four career technical endorsements. Secondary endorsements are also issued in the following areas:

  • English Language Arts
  • History
  • Mathematics
  • Social Studies
  • Traffic Safety

There is a general science endorsement at the secondary level, but beginning in September of 2019, it will no longer be issued to new teachers as a stand-alone credential.

At this time, special education, ELL, and bilingual endorsements (termed non-subject endorsements) will require co-endorsement (

Educators may continue to add endorsements throughout their careers ( Some require program completion. Some can be added by assessment alone.

Approved Programs

Among the most fundamental standards is completion of a state-approved program. The Washington Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB) has provided a list of approved Washington educator programs (

Alternative Programs

Alternative programs are designed to accelerate the process for individuals who are starting above the level of the traditional baccalaureate education student. The typical alternative student is someone who already holds a baccalaureate degree. Washington also has an alternative pathway that makes it easier for associate’s level teaching paraprofessionals to complete their bachelor’s degrees and earn their teaching licenses. Information about Washington alternative programs is available from PESB (

The Assessment Process

Prospective Washington educators go through a multi-step assessment process. Washington educator preparation programs include edTPA, a performance-based assessment. Video is among the artifacts that will be submitted. The Washington edTPA incorporates Student Voice, designed to foster ongoing reflection.

Washington has its own assessment system, Washington Educator Skills Tests (WEST). WEST assessments, like the edTPA, are administered by Pearson Education.

The WEST-B is a basic skills test. It is typically required at the program admission stage. However, programs can accept high SAT or ACT scores en lieu of the WEST-B. Out-of-state program completers can receive permits to begin teaching before fulfilling the WEST-B/ basic skills requirement.

Washington has transitioned a number of endorsement standards (and their corresponding assessments) to those developed on a national level. In some cases, the subject assessment will be from the Pearson NES series. PESB has provided a list of endorsements and corresponding assessments ( Information about both series can be found on the Pearson-administered WEST site (

It is possible to schedule computer-delivered testing outside Washington.

World language teachers and bilingual teachers have additional proficiency exams. Both take the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) Writing Proficiency Test and the Oral Proficiency Interview; required interview scores are higher for the bilingual endorsement than the world languages endorsement.

Subject area tests taken in other states can be accepted in lieu of the WEST-E. Washington PESB has provided a list of assessments that may be accepted (; it includes the ETS Praxis II as well as a number of state assessments administered under the banner of ETS or Pearson. PESB notes that it is not guaranteed that all subjects, grade levels, and test versions will be found acceptable.

The Application Process

Application forms can be found on the OSPI website (

Washington teachers make their first application at the student level. OSPI notes that they do not apply until they are directed by their programs. Fingerprints are required at this stage.

Application forms can be found on the OSPI website (

Status can be checked online.

Out-of-State Teachers

OSPI has stated that acceptance of out-of-state programs is not tied to NASDTEC preparation. The licensing authority has wide latitude to accept university programs. Washington PESB notes that individuals who qualify for licensure in their own state will generally also meet the Washington program completion requirement (

Washington credentials educators at different levels. Out-of-state teachers should be aware that they may not be eligible for licensure at the professional level. Most states differ significantly in advancement procedures. Only two out-of-state licenses, the Wisconsin Masters Educator License, and the Ohio Professional Teaching License, qualify the bearers for direct reciprocity at the professional level (

Provisional and Emergency Credentials

Emergency certificates can be granted at district request to individuals with bachelor’s degrees when fully qualified candidates can’t be found. Provisional credentials are also granted at district request, but requirements are higher.

Alternative preparation programs allow teachers with district-initiated credentials to progress to the next level.

Additional Information

Washington teachers are credentialed by the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction ( OSPI can be reached at 360-725-6400.

Additional information is available from the Washington Educator Professional Educator Standards Board (

Standards and options change periodically.