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.
Follow these steps to learn how to become an ESL teacher in Washington D.C.:
Step 1. Complete a Teacher Preparation Program to Become an ESL Teacher in D.C.
The most streamlined path to earning a standard teaching credential and working as an ESL teacher in the District of Columbia is by completing a bachelor’s degree or higher within a state-approved teacher preparation program.
You may also complete the required coursework outlined by the DC Municipal regulations and pass the Praxis I basic exam and Praxis II pedagogy exam. Consult the District of Columbia Directory of Pre-Approved Programs to find a qualifying ESL teacher preparation program.
If you choose to earn your license through an approved teacher preparation program, student teaching will be incorporated into your program. This is a great opportunity for you to experience teaching in the classroom and to query your teacher mentor about any questions you may have. The length of time you spend in student teaching will vary depending upon your program’s requirements.
Alternative Pathways to ESL Certification
Alternatively, 30 semester hours of coursework in the ESL subject area may be completed in lieu of completing the approved teacher preparation program and passing the Praxis II content area exam. This coursework includes:
- 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
Step 2. Pass the Required 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
Under District of Columbia rules, to receive an ESL endorsement, you must pass the Praxis II exam in English to Speakers of Other Languages. A score of 141 or higher is required.
You must also pass the Principles of Learning and Teaching Exam (PLT) that corresponds to the grade level(s) you intend to teach: K-6, 5-9 or 7-12 before the District of Columbia will endorse you to teach ESL.
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. However, you’ll still be required to pass the Praxis II PLT exam.
Step 3. Apply for Your Teaching License and ESL Endorsement
If you have fulfilled the above requirements, you are ready to apply for your standard teacher credential in the District of Columbia.
You must also have an Approved Program Verification Form on file with the DC OSSE. The licensure officer at your program should have sent that to the DC OSSE office already. Additionally, you must complete a nationwide criminal history report.
If you are currently employed as a teacher, you need to complete the Educational Employment Verification Form.
It can take up to 12 weeks for the Office of Educator Licensure and Accreditation to review your application. When completed, you will be issued a standard teacher license in DC.
If you’re a currently licensed educator in Washington D.C., you’ll complete the Application for Added Teaching Endorsements. Once received, your application and information will be logged into the DC OSSE system, where a specialist will review it. This may take up to eight weeks. You will be issued an ESL Endorsement if your information meets the necessary criteria.
Step 4. Maintain and Upgrade Your Teaching License and ESL Endorsement
You’ll need to renew your standard teaching credential every four years by completing the credential renewal process. You must complete six semester hours or 90 contact hours (or a mixture of the two) of professional development activities during each renewal period, with at least three semester hours or 45 clock hours directly related to ESL. The remaining semester/clock hours may be in any professional development activity for general education of K-12 students.
Acceptable professional development activities for renewal include:
- Courses taken at an accredited institution
- Seminars, workshops or conferences sponsored by a local school district, educational agency or professional/education organization (examples include the American Federation of Teachers, Washington Teachers Union, National Staff Development Council, TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) International, and International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL).
Your ESL endorsement will never expire as long as you keep your standard teaching credential up-to-date.
You might want to consider getting a graduate degree in education and/or ESL. Many institutions offer such degrees, and they can help you to advance in your career and salary. Examples include:
- Master of Education
- Master of Arts – specialization in ELL/ESL
- Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
- Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction – specialization in TESOL
5. Learn More About Becoming an ESL Teacher 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.
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 course work 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.
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.