Addressing the Teacher Shortage in Washington: New Evidence for a Homegrown Approach


January 29, 2020


Teacher and students in the classroom

Washington state continues to face a critical teacher shortage. To address the problem, state policymakers and district administrators are looking at “grow-your-own” teacher strategies, which seek to identify and support current paraeducators and limited certificated teachers who are interested in pursuing full certification.

A new study from Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northwest offers promising evidence for this approach.

Based on a survey of all 1,834 limited certificated teachers in the state, the study found that more than two-thirds of those who responded were interested in pursuing full teacher certification. Of those, many were interested in teaching in hard-to-fill subject areas such as bilingual education, special education, and the sciences.

The Professional Educator Standards Board administered the online survey in May 2017, and REL Northwest analyzed the data. According to Principal Investigator Sun Young Yoon, “The findings offer important information not only about the level of interest from current staff members, but also about the level of support they might need to get there.”

Promoting a More Diverse Teacher Workforce

The study found that a larger proportion of respondents of color wanted to become fully certificated, compared to white respondents. This finding is critical because in 2016/17, 45 percent of Washington public school K–12 students were students of color, yet only 11 percent of the state’s teacher workforce were people of color. Research suggests that this type of disparity may have a negative impact on diverse students’ success in school and beyond.

To close that gap, the state will need to address another finding from the study: Limited certificated teachers of color expressed a greater need for supports such as student teaching experience, testing fee waivers, medical benefits, classes offered at a site close to their workplace or school district, books and class materials, and scholarships.

“Providing these types of supports can help limited certificated teachers of color enroll and succeed in teacher certification programs,” says Yoon, “while also helping state and local leaders recruit and retain a teaching force that reflects the diversity of Washington’s students and is responsive to their learning needs.”

Download the report from the Institute of Education Sciences website.