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Private Schools

General information

A private school is a nonpublic school that conducts a program of kindergarten and at least grade one, or a program of any or all grades one through twelve. Private schools must be approved by the State Board of Education, maintain a program that ensures a sufficient basic education for students to meet usual state graduation requirements, and meet reasonable standards for health and safety of private school students.

A searchable list of currently approved private schools is available on the SBE Private Schools webpage. Additional questions may be directed to PrivateSchools@k12.wa.us.

The State Board of Education annually approves private schools in Washington State.

State law RCW 28A.195.010 states that “The legislature hereby recognizes that private schools should be subject only to those minimum state controls necessary to insure the health and safety of all the students in the state and to insure a sufficient basic education to meet usual graduation requirements.” Private schools must have health and safety inspections of the school buildings, provide instruction by Washington state certificated teachers (or by teachers supervised by a certificated teacher or administrator), and must meet instruction time requirements (a minimum of 1,000 hours or 180 days per year) and subject area requirements. Approved private schools must have full time enrolled students who attend the school.

Yes. However, any student seeking credit through Running Start must enroll through the local public school district or high school, have a Running Start Verification form in place for each term and each college, and must be a junior or senior. Junior or senior standing is determined in accordance with the public school district’s grade placement policies. Students enrolled for the sake of accessing Running Start do not need to attend classes at the public high school to participate in Running Start.

More information about Running Start is available on the OSPI Running Start webpage.

An approved Washington private school may have an online program. An online program with a physical facility where students are enrolled and regularly attend may apply for approval as a private school (RCW 28A.195.090). However, a completely online school, or a school with physical facilities located only outside of the state, may not be an approved Washington private school. Washington private school law assumes a physical facility in the state of Washington where students are enrolled and regularly attend (RCW 28A.195.010(6)).

No. WAC 180-90-160(1)(b) requires that “on each school day, pupils enrolled and in attendance at the school are engaged in education activity planned by and under the direction of the school; and that pupils are provided a total instructional hour offering” of 450 hours for students in kindergarten, and 1000 hours for students in grades one through twelve. In addition, WAC 180-90-141(1)(a) states that students must be in attendance at the school’s physical facilities for at least six consecutive calendar months. 

No. The State Board of Education has limited statutory authority related to the education of adults and no authority related to private schools and adult education. Therefore, State Board approval of a private school does not constitute state approval for a private school to provide adult education.

For schools and districts

Private schools are approved by the State Board of Education annually. Further information can be found on the Private Schools Approval page.

Each private school designates a Head of School in their application form. The Head of School is the principal, owner, or other school official who takes responsibility for accurately submitting and reporting information to the State Board of Education about the school. Notices and reminders for reporting, as well as general information that may be of interest to private schools, will periodically be distributed by the State Board of Education to the Head of School and other school personnel designated by the Head of School to receive this information.

Note: Exact deadlines vary slightly by year. Check WFIS website for exact dates this year: https://wfis.org/annual-reporting-requirements/.

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SPRING

No, a private school teacher does not need a Washington teaching certificate, provided the teacher is 1) supervised by a teacher or administrator who has a valid Washington teacher, administrator, or superintendent certification, 2) meets the minimum qualifications of the definition of a “Non-Washington state certificated teacher” as described in WAC 180-90-112(5), and 3) the educational program offered by the private school will be significantly improved with the employment of a non-Washington state certificated teacher.

In addition, teachers of religious courses do not need a teaching certificate.

A non-Washington state certificated teacher should have at least one of the following qualifications (WAC 180-90-160):

  • A K-12 teaching certificate from a nationally accredited preparation program, other than Washington state, recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • A minimum of a baccalaureate degree in the subject matter to be taught or in a field closely related to the subject matter to be taught.
  • A minimum of one calendar year of experience in a specialized field, that generally does not require a baccalaureate degree including, but not limited to, the fields of art, drama, dance, music, physical education, and career and technical or occupational education.

For private schools, approval by the State Board of Education is mandatory while accreditation is voluntary. Accreditation is a well-defined process to grant public recognition to educational institutions that meet specific external standards of quality by an external accrediting organization. State law does not require public or private schools in Washington to be accredited.

Private schools must offer no fewer than 180 school days per year or no fewer than a total school-wide annual average of 1,000 instructional hours for students in grades one through twelve, and at least 450 hours for kindergarten students.

If the school’s address, contact information, or the head of school changes, the State Board of Education must be notified. The chair of the school’s governing body, the owner of the school, or the head of school should complete a Private School Change of Information Form. If changes occur close to or during the Approval Application window, the re-approval process may serve as the notification and the Private School Certificate of Compliance may replace the Private School Change of Information Form.

Name changes cannot be processed in state records due to issues with the Educational Data System. Schools should apply as a new school under the new school name during the annual approval process.

Private schools that close must notify the State Board of Education. Schools need to make arrangements for the responsible disposition of student records. Neither the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction nor the State Board of Education is able to retain student records at the state level. Schools may inform the State Board of Education about the disposition of student records.

For internal state record-keeping purposes, each private school is given a unique identifier (School Code), which is shown in parentheses next to the school’s name in the Educational Data System. This ID number is useful for distinguishing between schools with the same or similar names.

To submit required reports, re-approval application, and to fill other needs involving state services and processes, each private school will need to have at least one staff person who has access to the Educational Data System (EDS). This staff person should first create an EDS account, if they do not have one already, and then be assigned EDS user roles. Generally, holders of Washington state educator certificates already have an EDS account.

To create a new EDS account, visit the EDS logon page, and then select the tab “create an account.”

Further information may be found on the SBE EDS Access webpage.

To request an EDS user role for a private school staff person, the Head of School should email private.schools@k12.wa.us and provide the following information for the intended user:

  • Full name, including the middle name
  • Email address
  • Birthdate
  • User Role being requested ( “Private School Representative” covers the minimum reporting and re-application functions)

Further information may be found on the SBE EDS Access webpage.

If you are requesting a new user role for the Head of School, because the Head of School has changed, please fill out a “Private School Change of Information Form.”

Records and transcripts

No student records are retained at the state level. If the school was linked with a larger organization such as a church or association of schools, the records you are searching for are likely to have been stored with the larger organization. Small closed schools will often disposition student records with the head of school or a member of the school’s governing organization. Also, some public school districts may agree to store private school records.

Private schools must take measures to safeguard all permanent records against loss or damage through either the storage of records in fire-resistant containers or facilities, or the retention of duplicates in a separate and distinct area.

It is recommended that private schools follow the public School Districts and Educational Service Districts Records Retention Schedule, which states that student records (including high school and middle school transcripts, as well as elementary enrollment history and grade progression) be retained for 100 years after the student graduates or withdraws.

Private schools may withhold a student’s official transcript if a previously enrolled student has not paid tuition, fees or fines, but must transmit information about the student’s academic performance, special placement, immunization records, and records of disciplinary action (RCW 28A.195.070).

The purpose of a high school transcript is to communicate a student’s academic history for all high school courses attempted including the courses, grades, schools, and other information. Good practice is to transfer credits and grades as closely as possible to the credits and grades earned. Occasionally, credits or grades may be changed because the accepting school uses a different credit-awarding scale or grading scale than the school where the credits were earned. A private school should have clear transfer and transcription policies. Public schools use the Washington State Standardized High School Transcript, and further information about the Standardized High School Transcript may be found on the OSPI High School Transcript webpage. Private schools are not required to use the Standardized High School Transcript.