First grade student-teacher Karen Gonzalez Rivas interacts with her students during Spanish class on Thursday, April 29, 2021, at Eagle Valley Elementary School in Eagle. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

This story was originally published by Chalkbeat. Sign up for their newsletters at

More than half of prospective elementary teachers in Colorado fail their licensure exams on the first try, and of those who fail, 40% don’t try again, according to new data from the National Council on Teacher Quality.

Only 46% of state elementary teacher candidates pass their exam on the first try, similar to the national average.

Teacher candidates of color are more likely to fail on a first attempt than their white counterparts — and slightly more likely to not try again, derailing those students’ aspirations, and hindering efforts to build a more diverse teacher workforce that would benefit all students.

For example, at the University of Northern Colorado, the state’s largest teacher prep program, 45% of elementary test-takers passed on their first try, compared with 33% of test-takers of color at the school.

“What would our teacher workforce look like if these teacher candidates of color could get their best score on their first attempt?” said Stephanie Perez-Carrillo, manager of policy and partnerships for the Colorado Children’s Campaign. “And then what would that mean for our students of color, to see someone who looks like them in the classroom? We’re missing out on the richness of their experience in the classroom.”

While Colorado test-takers pass on their first try at rates similar to the national average, they are almost twice as likely to walk away after failing on the first attempt.

New teachers pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket to take these exams, so there is a lot at stake.


Erica Meltzer is Bureau Chief of Chalkbeat Colorado, where she also covers the legislature and statewide education issues. Erica was a founding editor of the local news site Denverite. Before that, she covered everything from housing and energy...