Preparing young men and women to become teachers was an important function of the University of Washington from its early days. After becoming the Territorial University's first graduate in 1876, Clara McCarty became a teacher, the most common career for an educated woman at the time. The University established a specific program to train teachers — called the "Normal curriculum, as differentiated from the "Classical" or "Scientific" courses it offered — in 1878.

The University of Washington Normal College was established in 1892-1893 and switched its name to the Department of Pedagogy in 1893-1894, following national trends to give teacher education a position of social importance by institutionalizing it in the college and university as a legitimate course of study. In subsequent years, it went through several name changes: Department of Education, 1895-1896; Department of Philosophy of Education, 1896-1897; Department of Education, 1897-1898, School of Pedagogy, 1898-1899; and finally the name Department of Education prevailed for over a decade beginning in 1900-1901.

After many years as a Department of Education housed within the College of Arts and Sciences, on January 21, 1913, the UW introduced its School of Education.

The College of Education was officially formed December 15, 1914. With the formation, the College of Education became a four-year program with its own faculty responsible for graduation and curriculum decisions.

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