It’s only appropriate that our nation’s capital would perfectly reflect our country’s reputation as a melting pot. Washington D.C. is about as linguistically and culturally diverse as they come, according to American Immigration Council. As of 2018, immigrants comprised about 14 percent of the total population here, representing a nice portion of the District’s educated labor force.
And this population, of course, translates into a growing number of English Language Learners (ELLs) throughout the District’s public and private PreK-12 schools. For example, DC Public Schools (DCPS) serve more than 6,000 ELL students, the vast majority of whom come from a Spanish-speaking country. The largest number of other languages spoken by students here include Amharic, French, Chinese, and Vietnamese, although DCPS reports more than 147 languages spoken by its ELL population.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, ELLs in the District of Columbia represented about 11.3 percent of the total PreK-12 population in 2018, outpacing both Virginia (8.4 percent) and Maryland (9.7 percent) during this time.
The District has also reported strong and steady growth of ELLs in the past 13 years. In 2005, there were about 5,000 ELLs in the District. In 2015, this number grew to 6,215, and by 2018, the number of ELLs had once again jumped by more than 2,300 to 8,531 ELLs.
Become an ESL teacher in Washington D.C. and you’ll join a growing field that’s in high demand. As of the 2021-2022 school year, the U.S. Department of Education reported ESL teacher shortages in all grades (K-12) in our nation’s capital. Whether you choose to focus on ESL as you earn your initial teaching certificate or add it to your existing teacher certificate, an ESL credential is the beginning of an exciting career that’s focused on ensuring success for non-native speaking students.
These steps will show you exactly how to earn TESOL certification (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and become an ESL teacher in Washington D.C.:
Step 1. Earn a Degree in ESL and Qualify to Become an ESL Teacher in Washington D.C.
The District of Columbia’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education offers both a K-12 primary teacher certificate and an endorsement in English as a Second Language (ESL).
If you want to learn how to become an ESL teacher and earn a primary teacher certificate in ESL in Washington D.C., the most streamlined route is through a bachelor’s or master’s in ESL that’s part of a state-approved educator preparation program. Educator preparation programs include all coursework and practical experiences necessary for an initial teaching certificate.
The only program in D.C. offering a route to initial teacher licensure in ESL (K-12) is the MEd in Secondary Education through George Washington University, which features an ESL concentration with courses in:
- Academic and Psychosocial Assessment of the Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Student
- Second Language Instruction
- Linguistic Applications in English as a Second Language
- Second Language Acquisition
- Teaching Second Language Reading and Writing
You’ll need a bachelor’s degree to qualify for this program.
You can also pursue an approved educator preparation program leading to an initial teaching certificate in elementary education or in a single subject at the secondary level and then complete the required coursework to earn an ESL endorsement on your teaching certificate.
Already a certified teacher and want to add an ESL endorsement?
If you hold a current educator certificate in Washington D.C., you can earn an ESL endorsement by completing at least 30 semester hours of coursework in:
- At least six semester hours of the historical, philosophical, sociological and educational basis of the education of students of a language minority, including :
- Theory and Practice of English as a Second Language
- Foundations of English as a Second Language Education
- At least six semester hours of linguistics and how it relates to cognitive development, including:
- Introduction to Linguistics
- Introduction to Psycholinguistics OR Second Language Acquisition
- At least three semester hours in developmental literacy, reading for students of a language minority and reading readiness
- At least three semester hours in bilingual assessment instruments used with linguistically diverse students of a language minority
- At least three semester hours of principles of cross-cultural communication and differences in learning styles of students of a language minority, OR 45 hours/ one year of formal travel study or living abroad
- Competencies, which will be determined by the Language Minority Affairs Branch, must be displayed in:
- Language of specialty other than English
There are a handful of undergraduate certificate, graduate certificate, and master’s degree programs that offer ESL coursework for in-service teachers.
Already have a bachelor’s in another field?
You may be able to put your bachelor’s degree to use and earn a master’s degree and TESOL teaching certificate through an alternative educator program.
For example, Moreland University offers an MEd in Teaching Multilingual Learners through a TEACH-NOW Teacher Preparation Program that features learning that’s focused on teaching linguistically diverse student populations in the classroom and practical classroom applications for teaching multilingual learners.
Your bachelor’s degree in another field can also qualify you for one of the many available master’s degree programs leading to an initial teaching license.
You’ll find that many programs that offer bachelor’s degrees also offer these master’s programs that include all of the coursework and practical learning experiences necessary to become a certified teacher in Washington D.C.
Step 2. Pass the Appropriate Praxis Exams
Educational Testing Service (ETS) provides the basic and specialized testing that aspiring ESL teachers in the District of Columbia must pass.
All District of Columbia ESL teachers must first pass these three Praxis I Pre-Professional Skills Tests (PPST), which includes:
- Core Academic Skills for Educators: Writing
- Core Academic Skills for Educators: Mathematics
- Core Academic Skills for Educators: Reading
The District of Columbia Office of the State Superintendent of Education will accept the following test score combinations in lieu of the three Praxis I examinations:
- Option 1: You received a score of 20 on the ACT Composite AND 171 on the PPST Writing or 316 on the CBT Writing, or a score of 3.5 on the GRE Writing test
- Option 2: You scored 960 combined on the SAT verbal and math AND 171 on the PPST Writing or 316 on the CBT writing or 3.5 on the GRE writing test
- Option 3: Before 2005, you scored 850 combined on the SAT verbal and math AND 171 on the PPST Writing or 316 on the CBT writing or 3.5 on the GRE writing test
- Option 4: You scored 288 combined on the GRE verbal and quantitative AND 171 on the PPST Writing or 316 on the CBT writing or 3.5 on the GRE writing test
- Option 5: Before 2012, you scored 870 on the GRE verbal and quantitative AND 171 on the PPST Writing or 316 on the CBT writing or 3.5 on the GRE writing test
Subject Matter Testing
To earn ESL certification, you must pass the Praxis II exam in English to Speakers of Other Languages with a score of 141 or higher.
If you choose to complete a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, special education, or in a secondary subject, you’ll need to pass the appropriate Praxis exam to earn an initial teaching certificate. Then, once you complete the required ESL coursework, you’ll qualify for an ESL endorsement.
Note: If you did not complete a teacher preparation program and opted for the 30 semester hours of coursework as outlined in Step 1 above, won’t need to pass the Praxis II ESL content exam.
Step 3. Apply for Your ESL Teaching Certificate
If you have fulfilled the above requirements, you are ready to apply online for your Standard Teaching Credential.In addition to a completed application, you’ll need to provide the Office with a Program Completion Verification Form, an Identity History Summary Check (IHSC), and passing Praxis test scores.
If you’re a currently licensed educator in Washington D.C, you’ll complete the Application for Added Teaching Endorsements.
Step 4. Consider Maintaining and Upgrading Your Teaching License and ESL Endorsement by Earning a Master’s in ESL
You’ll need to renew your standard credential every four years. You must satisfy one of three options to qualify for renewal:
- Professional learning units: You must complete at least 120 clock hours of learning activities (one professional learning unit = one clock hour, and one college semester credit = 15 clock hours); at least 60 clock hours must be directly related to your credential. Learn more about professional development opportunities here.
- Performance ratings: If you work for a DC education agency that administers an educator performance evaluation system (currently the DC Public Schools is the only agency to offer this), you can submit satisfactory performance ratings to renew your credential.
- Test scores: If you’ve taken the Praxis II subject content exam related to your credential within the last 12 months, you can submit your passing test scores to renew your credential
You might want to consider getting a master’s degree in education and/or ESL. Many institutions offer such degrees, and they can help you to advance in your career and salary.
Step 5. Learn More About ESL Teacher Salary Expectations for Jobs in Washington D.C.
As of May 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the following salaries for educators in Washington D.C.:
Early Career (25th percentile): $60,830
Experienced (90th percentile): $118,360
Early Career (25th percentile): $62,230
Experienced (90th percentile): $109,560
Early Career (25th percentile): $48,020
Experienced (90th percentile): $101,170
Your salary as a Washington D.C. ESL teacher will largely depend on education and experience; however, because of the demand for bilingual educators, you may find attractive financial incentives attached to securing an ESL teacher job. Many school districts who identify ESL as a teacher shortage will offer signing bonuses, annual stipends, and other financial perks to ESL teachers.
And in Washington D.C., options for ESL teachers are abundant. In fact, it is even home to a dual immersion Spanish and English school, the DC Bilingual Charter School.
You may also find a nice selection of available grants and scholarships available to help you finish your ESL education.
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.