OLYMPIA — Universities and colleges would have more flexibility in admitting students into their education programs under a bill the state House of Representatives unanimously passed this week.
State Rep. Alex Ybarra, R-Quincy, is co-sponsoring House Bill 1621, which now heads to the Senate.
It would allow higher-education institutions to consider work and volunteer experience, GPA and relevant skills instead of just one test. That would encourage more people to enter the teaching profession, Ybarra said.
“Nontraditional applicants, such as working professionals looking to change jobs or even para-educators who want to take the next step in their career, have a different skill set than someone younger who is entering a course of study through a more traditional, campus-based program,” he said. “Removing the dependence on any one single test can help the application process be less intimidating for many of those folks.”
Currently, applicants must pass the Washington Educator Skills Test-Basic or an accepted alternative such as the ACT or SAT to be accepted into a teacher preparation program. Ybarra said people who have been out of school for a long time may not do as well on those tests.
Under his bill, applicants would still have to take a basic skills assessment and report the results to the teacher preparation program and the state Professional Educator Standards Board. Although the results would help determine eligibility, a low score wouldn’t keep the applicant from being accepted.
“When most people remember their favorite teacher, they think of someone who helped them through a difficult period or got them to think differently,” Ybarra said. “No written test can measure the ability to do that. With the changes outlined in my bill, universities and colleges could capitalize on an applicant’s overall experience, enthusiasm for the profession, knowledge and basic skills.”
Ybarra has been on the Quincy School Board since 2011 and been active in the Washington State School Directors’ Association. He said a statewide teaching shortage and a desire to see residents return home to teach inspired the bill.
“This particular program is geared for the folks that are not high school students,” he said. “They’re more like older adults that are stay-at-home moms and dads or they’re folks who work in the industry and want to do something different. They’re already established in the community — they’re moms who live in Quincy or moms who live in a rural town. As soon as they’re done with the program, they want to come back and teach in their hometowns.”