Improved teacher certification process goes online ahead of 2017 school year

While much of this year’s attention on Washington’s education system focused on historic investments for public schools, lawmakers also streamlined the process for earning and maintaining teaching credentials. Updating the current system was done to ensure high-quality teachers would enter and remain in the classrooms, according to Sen. Joe Fain, who sponsored a bill on this issue earlier this year and worked as Senate Majority Floor Leader to pass the final legislation.

“Every child deserves a great teacher, but too often duplicative or burdensome requirements divert a teacher’s attention towards bureaucracy instead of helping kids learn,” said Fain, who serves as vice-chair of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee. “We can maintain rigorous standards and accountability for our educators while at the same time get out of their way so that they can do what they were trained to do.”

The state currently issues teaching certificates to new teachers and those moving from out-of-state. Under the new law, teachers and principals may renew his or her certification in five-year intervals. While certification can still be earned through ProTeach — a currently required certification and review process — or National Board Certification, they are no longer required.

“Thanks to House Bill 1341, no longer will a process that is removed from the local environment determine the quality of an educator,” said Wayne Jensen, a third grade teacher at Ridgewood Elementary School in the Kent School District who was one of the teachers who brought these cumbersome requirements to Fain’s attention. “As teacher evaluations systems have become more accountable and focused on student growth, local principal evaluations now have the greatest impact on new and established teachers. Teachers can now refocus those hundreds of hours spent on the redundancies of ProTeach and instead work on improving their skill-set by collaborating locally with their colleges and building administrator. That’s how you improve the quality of teachers, and that’s how you improve students learning.”

In February, Fain met with 30 teachers from the Kent Education Association for its monthly “Pizza and Politics” session. Teacher certification requirements were one of the frequently raised topics during the meeting.

“For Senator Fain, and Representative Bergquist, a huge thank you from not only myself, but all the teachers and principals this positive piece of legislation will help,” said Jensen. “No longer facing the anxiety and loss of time and money, not having to work on something that had been replaced by a newer more effective evaluation system, is a welcome change for hundreds of current teachers already in the system.”

The Legislature has continued to refine and improve teacher certification along with a teacher and principal evaluation process in recent years. Many teachers and education advocates had been concerned about duplicative requirements. The legislation goes into effect this year ahead of the 2017-18 school year.