Becoming a teacher in Washington DC comes with a particular set of hurdles, regulations, and standards because it is a unique state in terms of its institutional landscape. Maybe you have done some preliminary research online and browsed through what it takes to become qualified to teach in DC, the kinds of schools you might want to consider teaching at, and some of the opportunities that would be open to you on this rewarding, secure, and respected career path. That’s where Noodle comes in!
What we will cover:
1) An overview of becoming a teacher in DC 2) Different routes to get your license 3) Types of teacher training programs 4) The Praxis Exam 5) How to earn more as a teacher
1) Teaching in Washington D.C.: An Overview
First, some background on the licensure process in DC. Teacher licenses in this state are awarded by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). The OSSE is a separate government agency from DC Public Schools and sets forth the licensure qualifications and manages the licensure process. Within the OSSE you are eventually going to access and create an application to get your teaching license(after completing all qualifications, of course!) through The Educator Credential Information System (ECIS). This is a user-friendly website for those seeking authorization to teach.
The OSSE it offers a two-step system of licensing: the first is an Initial license and the next tier is the Standard license. The licensing route you take is dependent on where you are in your education and experience, and where you want to end up. We will go over all steps and requirements to earn these two levels of licensure. No matter what, they require you have a bachelor's degree and have received passing scores on what is known as the Praxis Exam.
The Praxis Exam is the assessment that most states in the US hold as a requirement for becoming a licensed teacher. It specifically measures mastery of subject- specific content that is needed for teaching. The required scores are state-dependent, but the DC score requirement does not differ in any significant way from other states.
One more step!
To become licensed to teach in Washington, DC you must also pass a criminal background check, which includes fingerprinting. Like most people, you probably are not familiar with how to check your criminal background and verify your record. Neither the District nor the school hiring you will do this for you, so to help you get started we will outline the steps to complete this important qualification.
2) What is your path to D.C. teaching licensure?
Everyone who wants to teach in DC must be licensed, but obviously the roads to accomplish this goal depend on your experience and level of education.
If you have no experience and are entering undergrad:
Let’s say you are about to enter an undergrad program and already know you want to teach in DC. If your undergraduate institution is approved by the OSSE then majoring in education and earning your degree will allow you to skip the initial licensing step and go straight to getting your Standard License out of school – your undergraduate coursework will be a sufficient placeholder for your initial licensing. The Standard license offers the highest level of certification, but like the Initial License it is not permanent. It is only valid for 4 years and must be renewed. Starting in January 2018, renewal of the Standard License will require 60 hours of professional development in your subject area and 60 in general education.
If you have a bachelor's degree but did not study education:
Let’s say you hold a Bachelor’s degrees but in something other than education and you have no coursework or history of studying education. This means you would need to acquire this education before being able to apply for your teacher’s license. Luckily, there are programs called Teacher Preparation Programs (TTP) that are designed to prepare both undergraduate and graduate students the skills they need to teach in the subject area and for the grade level they are interested in.
For D.C., the teacher preparation program must be approved by the OSSE, but there are a multitude of TTPs to choose from so you can suit your needs adequately. One benefit of a TPP is that if you are enrolled in a formal and state-approved TPP program, meeting these higher coursework standards for the Standard licensed are embedded in your program.
If you are a teacher and have your license but you want to teach in another state:
If you are a current teacher from another state but want to teach in DC then you’ll need to understand something called reciprocity. Reciprocity is how the new state treats the teaching license you’ve received in your original state. Some states accept the teaching credentials of other states, some do not. If you have a general idea of your teaching domain, make sure you check out the teacher licensing website which lists states’ reciprocity agreements.
3) Types of D.C. Teacher Training Programs
There are three main types of teacher training programs: undergraduate programs, master’s degree programs and alternative programs. There are pros and cons of each, and again depending on who and where you are in life one's path might be better suited compared to another. Undergrad programs that are certified by the state and have education degrees available are adequate for your teacher training program, as we mentioned above.
For aspiring teachers who need to complete a post-baccalaureate program to become certified, it may make more sense to pursue an accelerated Master’s Degree program. That’s because teachers who hold a Master’s enjoy higher salaries, benefits, and recognition, and because many online programs can be completed in almost the same time as a state approved post-baccalaureate program. In fact, the difference between pursuing a state approved certificate program and getting a Master’s may amount to no more than one or two classes.
The bottom line is that, because districts and states pay teachers with a Master’s much higher salaries, you get a big bang for your buck in about the same amount of time if you opt for the Master’s.
Online programs are typically taught in cohorts and feature student-teaching experiences and dynamic platforms for learning, so you don’t miss out on the full interactive, classroom-like experience. For aspiring teachers who need to complete a post-baccalaureate program to become certified, it may make more sense to pursue an accelerated Master’s Degree program. That’s because teachers who hold a Master’s enjoy higher salaries, benefits, and recognition, and because many online programs can be completed in almost the same time as a state approved post-baccalaureate program. In fact, the difference between pursuing a state approved certificate program and getting a Master’s may amount to no more than one or two classes.
The District of Columbia also offers several alternative routes in the hope of attracting a diverse, talented group of professionals to the classroom and to teacher shortage areas. As we mentioned before, there are options for those who hold a Bachelor’s degree in a subject other than education. One option is to become certified by completing an approved alternative educator certificate program.
These programs can be found at traditional colleges and universities. They offer teachers a post-graduate certificate that can be completed in as little as one year, providing an accelerated track with in-depth mentoring, student teaching, and field experiences. The district also strives to offer flexibility in meeting licensing requirements. A benefit of this flexible approach is that a candidate’s past experiences, work history, and education is taken into consideration. One example of a flexible path is the Occupation and Experience Based License. Here the district allows teacher licensure for subjects such as the performing arts, military service, and career education. Aspiring teachers must demonstrate and document appropriate professional work experience. An advantage to this route is that candidates are exempt from the Praxis Exams.
There are also an array of teacher training programs that available to aspiring teachers but want to get out of the college or university setting. One very popular program is called Teach For America (TFA)in which is a competitive placement program that sends new college graduates right into the workplace in schools that need teachers - it acts as a pathway to licensure and is in over 25 states and metropolitan areas. The American Board for the Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE) set out to certify people who have expertise in certain subject, people who are changing careers, or military veterans and get them in a teaching career. TNTP teaching fellows is another alternative certification program that is similar in structure and nature to TFA but is more locally based- they have programs in Chicago, New York, Arkansas and Mississippi.
4) The Praxis Exams – When, Where, and the Scores You Need to Pass
As we said, becoming a teacher in the District of Columbia requires you take educator exams for full licensure. Knowing which Praxis Exams to take and when to take them can get confusing.
Here’s the easy part. If you are currently enrolled in an educator preparation or undergraduate teaching program, your academic coordinator should be able to guide you regarding your testing requirements and the timing of your exams. Some programs advise students take the Praxis exams at a particular point in their training. For students who delay their education, stop and start their teacher training, or pursue an unorthodox path, these tests can be taken on an individualized timetable. But whatever path you find yourself on, you must take and pass these tests before applying for either the Initial or Standard license.
The Praxis Exam has three main divisions:The Core Assessment, The Subject Assessment, and the Content Knowledge for Teaching Assessment. The core exam tests your skills “in reading, writing and mathematics” and was “designed to provide comprehensive assessments that measure the skills and content knowledge of the candidates entering teaching preparation programs.”
All teachers who wish to become licensed must take the core exam, and those looking to gain additional teaching credentials must also take the subject test in their area of interest.
Think of it like the SATs – there is the main test that all students must take (or used to before alternatives were available), and the SAT subject test gauges knowledge in specific areas. Lastly, the CKT tests your knowledge in K-12 specific teaching.
The best way to study for the Praxis Exam is to take practice tests in the subject areas of interest so you become familiar with the test and know the types and depth of questions asked.
Registration and booking for the Praxis is extremely easy. Just go to the website, create a username, and select a testing site and date. They have testing centers throughout the United States and not just within the states that require the exam, so taking it is very simple.
All Praxis tests are administered by an independent organization called the Education Testing Service.
5) Return On Investment: What it Takes To Earn More As a D.C. Teacher
Teaching can certainly provide financial stability. You should consider the variables that impact average teacher salaries, and how you can maximize the return on investment (ROI) from your career choice.
You may not know that the teaching profession rewards and incentivizes teachers significantly for the level of training and coursework they pursue. So, as you research what it take to become a teacher, you should also consider the value of pursuing the highest level of education you can. You may be surprised by how a moderately greater investment now—perhaps obtaining the Master’s–will yield significant rewards, financial advantages, mentorship, and collegial contacts over the lifetime of your career. The perks to obtaining more education vary by district. You will need to check in with your district and employer to learn more about the different salary levels offered for each degree, and even by subject matter.