The rise of Arkansas’ English Language Learner (ELL) student population (PreK-12) has been nothing short of dramatic, rising from just 11,850 students (about 2.6 percent of the total student population) in 2000 to nearly 39,000 students in 2018, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Today, Arkansas’ ELL population comprises about 8.1 percent of the total student population.
During the 2018-19 school year, the Arkansas House Interim Committee on Education and the Senate Interim Committee on Education reported that some districts (largely in the northwest portion of the state) were home to particularly large ELL populations, including Springdale (21.4 percent) and Rogers (11.4 percent).
The largest percentage of ELLs in Arkansas during this time were native Spanish speakers, at 83.2 percent, followed by Marshallese (7.9 percent) and Vietnamese (1.1 percent), and Arabic (1 percent).
Whether you’re interested in focusing your initial Arkansas teaching certificate on ESL or you want to add an endorsement to your current teaching certificate, one thing’s certain: there are bountiful opportunities for ESL education experts in Arkansas.
Follow these steps to learn how to become an ESL teacher in Arkansas:
|Complete a State-Approved Educator Preparation Program|
|Pass the Required PRAXIS Examinations|
|Apply for a Provisional and Standard Teaching License|
|Qualify for an ESL Endorsement|
|Learn More About Working as an ESL Teacher in Arkansas|
Step 1. Complete a State-Approved Educator Preparation Program
If you want to become an ESL teacher in Arkansas, the easiest route is to complete a minimum of a bachelor’s degree program that’s part of an approved educator preparation program. While Arkansas has no approved teacher preparation programs in ESL, you can still accomplish your goal by completing a program in either elementary education or English/Language Arts at the middle childhood or secondary level and then choosing a TESOL a track, concentration, or minor.
If you already hold an Arkansas teaching certificate, you can complete your education for TESOL certification through either a master’s degree or graduate certificate program in ESL.
If you already possess a bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited college or university (and you have passed all required examinations), you may qualify for the Arkansas Professional Pathway to Educator License program, or APPEL program.
The APPEL program allows you to begin teaching while you complete all necessary components of the program, which includes the completion of: on-the-job learning; mentoring during the program; specific assessments; and instructional modules (both face-to-face and online). The APPEL program often results in a master’s degree for participants. You can read more about alternative-route master’s degree programs for teacher licensure here.
Provisional Professional Teaching License
Another route to licensure as an ESL teacher in Arkansas may be through the achievement of a Provisional Professional Teaching license, a three-year provisional license that is awarded to candidates with a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university and at least three years of experience in a language/bilingual field.
To qualify for this license, you must pass all state-required examinations and possess an offer of employment from an Arkansas public school.
During the provisional licensure period, you will be required to complete at least 24 hours of pedagogy training. If you are interested in this teacher preparation pathway, you are encouraged to contact the Office of Educator Licensure at 501-682-4342 for more information.
Step 2. Pass the Required PRAXIS Examinations
The Arkansas Department of Education requires all candidates for teacher licenses in the state to take and pass all required examinations. To become an ESL teacher in Arkansas, you must complete the following:
- PRAXIS Core Academic Skills for Educators tests in Reading, Writing, and Mathematics; AND
- Elementary Education: Multiple Subjects and Principles of Learning and Teaching, Grades K-6; OR
- Middle School English Language Arts (5047); OR
- English Language Arts: Content Knowledge and Principles of Learning and Teaching: Grades 7-12
You can learn more about the PRAXIS examinations in Arkansas here.
Step 3. Apply for a Provisional and Standard Teaching License
Upon completing all requirements for licensure, teacher candidates must apply for a one-year provisional license. During this time, you will work under the guidance of a certified mentor.
After you have completed this mentoring program, you may apply for a Standard Teacher License in Arkansas, which must be renewed every 5 years, upon the completion of at least 60 hours of professional development. You may either complete a renewal application or renew using the online system.
Step 4. Qualify for an ESL Endorsement
To achieve ESL endorsement, you must be a currently licensed Arkansas educator, and you must successfully complete the following:
- Passing the PRAXIS examination: English to Speakers of Other Languages (5361)
- An ESL Add-on Endorsement K-12; a program must include at least 12 credit hours in the following:
- Methods and materials for teaching second languages (Teaching English as a second language)
- Second language assessment
- Second language acquisition
- Teaching people from other cultures
You must complete an Application for Educator’s License to add the ESL endorsement to your current teaching license.
Step 5. Learn More About Working as an ESL Teacher in Arkansas
As of May 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the following salaries for educators in Arkansas:
Early Career (25th percentile): $42,080
Experienced (90th percentile): $64,240
Early Career (25th percentile): $43,280
Experienced (90th percentile): $67,600
Early Career (25th percentile): $43,760
Experienced (90th percentile): $70,840
BLS stats also reveal what ESL teachers are earning in Arkansas in some of its largest metro areas, as of May 2020:
Little Rock (Elementary School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $43,180
Experienced (90th percentile): $69,780
Jonesboro (Middle School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $38,660
Experienced (90th percentile): $58,390
Fayetteville-Springdale (High School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $48,840
Experienced (90th percentile): $77,150
ESL teachers in Arkansas, while paid on the same salary schedule as other educators, may qualify for financial incentives such as grants, bonuses, and salary stipends if they teach in an area that’s identified as having a shortage of ESL teachers.
For example, the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant currently offers $4,000 a year to students who are completing or plan to complete coursework needed to begin a career in teaching identified as a “high-needs” field which, as of 2021, includes English language acquisition. In exchange for the TEACH grant, you must serve in a PreK-12 school that serves low-income students for at least four years after you graduate.
Consider joining a professional group like ARKTESOL – Arkansas Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, which promotes TESOL and the professionals within the field.
May 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and job market trends for elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, and secondary school teachers represent state data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed June 2021.
Student population data from the National Center for Education Statistics represents English language learners (ELL) enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools in the fall of 2018.