Oregon is one of only eight states in the nation with an English language learner (ELL) population among its public school students that numbers more than 10 percent. In the 2012 school year the number of public school English language learners approached 64,000, which accounted for more than 11 percent of the student population as a whole. In the decade following 1998 this demographic of students has increased by more than 110 percent.
In 2014 there were more than 1,600 teachers in Oregon with an ESL endorsement. Officially referred to as ESOL teachers (English for Speakers of Other Languages), the importance of these educators cannot be overstated.
To become an ESL teacher in Oregon you will need to navigate the following steps:
Step 1. Earn a Basic or Standard Oregon Teaching License
The Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission recognizes ESL as being an endorsement that you can add to an existing teaching license.
As a prospective ESL teacher you will need to start by earning a basic or standard teaching license in an elementary or secondary specialization for one of the following grade levels:
- Early childhood for students at a pre-primary level through grade 8
- Elementary and middle level for students in grades 3-9
- Middle level and high school for students in grades 5-12
Among the most important requirements for licensure so as to eventually add TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification is to earn a relevant degree. Choosing a field that is related to ESL will often involve completing many of the required ESL courses.
Your education will involve completing a traditional or alternative teacher education program at the bachelor’s level at minimum.
Step 2. Complete the Academic Requirements to Add an ESL Endorsement
Once you already have your initial teaching license you will need to complete the following academic requirements to add an ESL endorsement:
- Earn 18 quarter credits in a teacher education program that includes:
- Academic information regarding first and second language acquisition
- Applied linguistics
- Functions and structures of spoken and written languages
- Pedagogy and teaching strategies for first and second languages
- Curriculum materials as they relate to culture and core academic skills
- Use of technology to enhance ESL teaching
- Laws at the federal, state, and local levels pertaining to English language learners
- ESL assessments for oral proficiency, literacy, and core subjects in first and second languages
- Cultural diversity as well as parent and community involvement
- Student teaching or practicum with ESL students
You can also earn a bilingual/ESOL endorsement if you can demonstrate the acquisition or fluency in a second language. The most common native languages among Oregon’s English language learners are:
Post-Bac and Master’s Degree Programs
When considering the coursework you must complete to add an ESL/ESOL endorsement to your license, it is a good time to consider earning a master’s degree such as an M.A.T., M.Ed. or MATL with an emphasis in ESL/ESOL.
Several colleges and universities throughout Oregon offer these types of programs that specifically result in eligibility to add an ESL/ESOL endorsement, with the added advantage of an elevated credential. Some schools also offer master’s degree programs that result in eligibility for an initial teaching license combined with the opportunity to add an ESL/ESOL endorsement.
Step 3. Complete the Required Oregon Tests
To become an ESL teacher in Oregon you will need to pass three exams:
- Civil Rights Exam
- Basic Skills Exam
- English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Exam
These are managed and administered as part of the Oregon Educator Licensure Assessments (ORELA) in association with Pearson Education. Your first step to taking these tests is to register online with ORLEA.
Civil Rights Exam
Also referred to as the Protecting Student and Civil Rights in the Educational Environment Examination, the Civil Rights Exam is made up of 60 questions taken from the topics of:
- Federal and state laws that prevent discrimination in the classroom and promote civil rights
- Precedent-setting court and legal decisions
- Ensuring equal access to education
- Student diversity and learning, and its impact on teaching
- Cultural awareness and openness in the classroom
If you already have your teaching license in Oregon then you will have most likely previously completed this exam.
Basic Skills Exam
There are several basic skills exams that will qualify you for an ESL teaching license in Oregon. These are designed to ensure would-be teachers have certain foundational skills to be effective communicators and educators. One of these is the ORELA NES (National Evaluation Series) Essential Academic Skills Exam, which is divided into three parts:
There are three other similar exams you can take that will satisfy the requirements for a basic skills exam, however the NES exam is the preferred assessment, especially if you are an Oregon resident:
- California Basic Education Skills Test (CBEST)
- Washington Educator Skills Test – Basic (WEST-B)
- Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators in Reading, Writing, and Mathematics
If you are already a certified teacher in a different state, you can be exempt from the basic skills exam requirement if you can meet one of the following conditions:
- You have a master’s degree and a full teaching license
- You have a non-provisional California teaching credential
English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Exam
You will be permitted 180 minutes to complete the (NES) ESOL Exam, which is comprised of 150 multiple-choice questions taken from the following three main subject areas:
- Foundations of ESOL Instruction – 40 percent
- Role of culture in language learning and acquisition
- Application of ESL instructional resources and approaches
- Principles of ESL instruction
- Issues and concepts related to testing English language learners
- Impact of national law and policy on ESL instruction
- Professional development and community involvement
- Assessment and Instruction of English language learners – 40 percent
- ESL best practices
- Promotion of aural and oral English language development
- Promotion of English language learner literacy
- Connecting English language learners with the core curriculum
- Socio-linguistic concepts as they are applied to ESL instruction
- Foundations of Language and Language Acquisition – 20 percent
- Processes and theories of language acquisition and literacy development
The registration fee for this exam is $95 and a passing score is considered to be 228.
Step 4. Apply to Add an ESOL Endorsement to Your Oregon Teaching License
Upon completing the steps up to this point you will be ready to apply to add an endorsement in ESL/ESOL. This will require you to fill out an application. Make sure to indicate that you are adding an endorsement in ESOL and provide the requested information on your ESL academic courses and tests, returning the form to:
Teacher Standards and Practices Commission
250 Division Street Northeast
Salem, OR 97301
Once you receive a positive response from the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission you will be ready to start searching for ESL jobs in Oregon. You can find helpful employment resources through websites like Oregon’s Jobs in Education webpage.
Step 5. Renew Your Teaching License and ESL Endorsement
Your first Oregon educator credential is an Initial I Teaching License which is valid for three years. You can only renew this twice, in a process that is commonly done by earning a master’s degree. Upgrading to an Initial II Teaching License requires completing at least 10 semester credits of graduate-level coursework that is related to your ESL or original endorsement. There are two other ways to upgrade to an Initial II Teaching License:
- Earn a master’s degree
- Earn an advanced professional degree
As you become more experienced in your new career as an ESL teacher you may wish to research information about related professional organizations. One such organization is the Oregon Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (ORTESOL). In addition to providing information about TESOL certification in Oregon, this association also offers useful ESL information regarding employment and professional development.