Washington, D.C. Teacher Certification Guide

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Becoming a Teacher in Washington D.C.

There are several routes one might take to become a teacher in Washington D.C. The first step is to obtain either an Initial Credential or a Standard Credential. An Initial Credential is valid for three years and is not renewable. A Standard Credential is valid for four years and may be renewed. Although there are many different ways to obtain a teaching credential, to be eligible for an Initial or Standard Credential in Washington D.C. you must have earned a bachelor's degree or higher, you must have completed a student teaching requirement, and you must pass Washington D.C. Certification Exams. If you have a valid teaching credential from another state and have at least two years experience, then you also may be eligible for an Initial or Standard Credential.

D.C. Teacher Preparation Programs

There are many teacher preparation programs that meet D.C. requirements and cater to the different experience and education backgrounds of potential candidates. Through Teach for America, candidates may work towards a Washington D.C. teaching license while actively working full time or pursuing a Master's degree. Through the Urban Teachers program, candidates who wish to support low-income communities will earn a Master's degree from Johns Hopkins University while also working as a co-teacher for a year in an urban classroom. Once completed, the Urban Teachers program guarantees placement in an urban classroom and a dual certification in special education as well as an area of your interest. Additionally, there are a handful of institutions that offer more traditional teacher preparation programs which are approved by the Washington State Superintendent of Education (OSSE):

  • American University
  • Catholic University of America
  • Gallaudet University
  • Georgetown University
  • George Washington University
  • Howard University
  • Moreland University
  • Relay Graduate School of Education
  • Trinity Washington University
  • University of the District of Columbia

Another option is the Initial License Option 1, which essentially allows a candidate who has a bachelor's degree and Praxis test passing scores to teach in a classroom while completing a teacher preparation program. An employment offer from a D.C. school or current teaching experience is required for this Initial License.

What Level of Education Does a Teacher Need?

To meet initial requirements for teaching licensure in Washington D.C., you must meet the minimum education requirement of a bachelor's degree or higher from an accredited university. There is no specific undergraduate coursework required, though most prospective teachers specialize in education and a subject area that they wish to teach. Additionally, you will need to have an understanding of mathematics, reading, and writing to pass the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators Exam, which are required for D.C. teachers.

What is the Praxis Exam?

The Praxis Exam is a series of tests required for teachers in Washington D.C. that serve as a gauge of a candidate's readiness to teach basic concepts. The three tests that are required of all D.C. teachers are Core Academic Skills for Educators: Reading, Core Academic Skills for Educators: Writing, and Core Academic Skills for Educators: Mathematics. There are additional tests required for specialized areas of teaching, such as Special Education or World Languages. You can register for the Praxis test online, through the mail, or over the phone. Each of the Core Academic Skills for Educators tests comes with a 90 dollar fee, or you can choose the Combined Test which contains all three required tests for a cost of 150 dollars.

Praxis Core Academic Skills

On the Praxis Core Academic Skills tests, academic skills in mathematics, reading, and writing are tested. The concepts tested have been determined by educators using standardized procedures to be essential for teachers of any grade or subject. The Praxis Core Math includes a combination of numerical entry and multiple choice questions that tests concepts of algebra and geometry, number and quantity, and data interpretation, statistics, and probability. The reading test requires the interpretation and analysis of given passages, as well as some more specific choice-of-word and alternate response questions. The Praxis Core Writing test contains one argumentative writing task and one informative/explanatory task. Additional questions are provided to test the best strategies for research and revision of text.

Praxis Subject Assessment

The Praxis Subject Assessments are a collection of more than 90 tests that are designed to measure knowledge on specific subjects taught by K-12 teachers. Although Subject Assessments are not required for all teachers in Washington D.C., they may be required for specific disciplines of education, such as Special Education. The Subject Assessments are comprised of a combination of short answer and multiple choice questions.

D.C.'s Teacher Certification Process

Teacher certification is not required to apply to work in a D.C. public school, though it is required to teach in Washington D.C. So, you can apply to work in a D.C. public school and be hired without being certified, but you will be required to be certified by the time you start work. When applying for D.C. teacher certification, you must use the Educator Credentialing Information System, where you can apply for a new license, renew an expired license, or add an additional endorsement to an existing license. For an Initial License, the requirements for application differ based on the option you are pursuing, though all options require transcripts from any university from which you earned a degree. For a Standard License, you will need to submit proof of teacher preparation program completion, transcripts from any university from which you earned a degree, Praxis test passing scores, and DCPS fingerprint servicing. For an Added Endorsement, you will need to submit all pages of your end-of-year performance evaluation report, passing Praxis exam scores for the relevant subjects of your added endorsement, and DCPS fingerprint servicing.

Additional Requirements for D.C. Teachers

The Office of the State Superintendent of Education requires all teachers applying for licensure to pass a background check via fingerprinting within 2 years of the date of application. Fingerprint servicing must be completed by the Central Office. Additionally, prospective employees of the DCPS must submit to a Child Protection Register Screening, a National Sex Offender Registry Screening, and a TB Risk Assessment. There is no cost for obtaining a background check.

D.C.'s Alternative Teacher Certifications

There are specific programs that offer a path towards D.C. teacher certification as part of a comprehensive teacher preparation program. Regardless of your path to certification, all prospective applicants must achieve Praxis Core test passing scores.

Troops to Teachers Program

The Troops to Teachers program (TTT) was created to support active service members and veterans in becoming licensed K-12 teachers. This program was recently reauthorized, and the requirements of the program are under review by the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Teach for America

The Teach for America program aids prospective teachers who have already passed the required Praxis exams by giving them a chance to pursue certification while either working full-time and gaining experience in a classroom or while working towards a master's degree with one of Teach for America's teaching partners.

Urban Teachers Program

The Urban Teachers program assists prospective teachers in earning a master's degree from Johns Hopkins University while also working for a year as a co-teacher in a classroom. Upon completion, the Urban Teachers program guarantees placement in an urban classroom.

Schools That Offer Alternative Certification Programs

  • American University
  • Catholic University of America
  • Gallaudet University
  • Georgetown University
  • George Washington University
  • Howard University
  • Moreland University
  • Relay Graduate School of Education
  • Trinity Washington University
  • University of the District of Columbia

Becoming a Substitute Teacher in D.C.

As of 2016, special certification is no longer required for substitute teachers in D.C. You can apply to be a substitute teacher on the DCPS website. Applicants are required to either be a retired teacher, have 1-2 years of experience working in a classroom, or submit a professional reference letter with their application.

What if I'm Already a Teacher in Another State?

You must have a valid D.C. teacher certification to teach in Washington D.C. However, if you currently have a license to teach in another state, you may be eligible for an Initial License under reciprocity. Reciprocity only extends to your first D.C. teaching license, for renewal or further licensure, you will need to complete the D.C.-specific requirements. While applying for an Initial License through the OSSE, you will be required to submit a copy of your active teaching credentials from another state, official transcripts from any university from which you obtained a degree, test scores from exams from your state, and if you completed an alternative teacher certification program, you will be required to include a Program Completion Verification Form.

Can My Teacher Certification Be Renewed?

It is possible for a teaching credential for Washington D.C. to be renewed. D.C. teacher certification renewal is contingent upon completion of one of three options. The first option is 120 hours or eight semester credit hours of Professional Learning Units. Acceptable content for Professional Learning Units can be found on the OSSE website, and includes activities such as those that increase content knowledge or increase strategies and skills for meeting the needs of diverse learners. The second option is to submit satisfactory performance rating reports which detail the work done by current employees. The DCPS agency is the only local education agency that administers an educator evaluation system that is accepted for certification renewal. The third option is to submit Praxis Exam passing scores in the subject area that is relevant to the license being renewed. The Praxis exam must have been taken within 12 months of the application date.

Opportunities for Advancement for D.C. Teachers

Professional development for D.C. teachers comes in the form of the LEAP (Learning Together to Advance Our Practice) program. Through LEAP, teachers engage in weekly development through a 90 minute seminar on a core instructional practice, and one-on-one coaching and feedback. Professional development opportunities such as LEAP present a chance for teachers to achieve mastery in their field, and present challenging and engaging instruction for Common Core-aligned curriculum to students. When it comes to professional advancement, D.C. teachers participate in the LIFT (Leadership Initiative for Teachers) program. LIFT is a five step career ladder that gives high-performing teachers opportunities for advancement. The goals of the LIFT program are to retain top performers, reward experience, broaden recognition of excellent teachers, and increase career stability. More specific information can be found in the LIFT Guidebook available on the OSSE website.

D.C. Teacher Outlook and Salary

Between 2 and 20 percent of D.C. teaching positions are vacant at any point in time, with more positions vacant in specialty areas like elementary education and special education. In general, most teachers in D.C. have more than 5 years of experience, with the smallest percentage of teachers being new hires. The teacher to student ratio for D.C. is around 11:51 teachers per students. The pay scale for teachers is heavily tiered and is based on several factors including the level of education a teacher is working at, and the level of education completed by a teacher. For example, elementary educators are generally paid more than secondary education teachers, and teachers that have earned master's degrees are paid more than teachers that have earned bachelor's degrees. A teacher's salary will also increase with years of experience. Teachers working in D.C. have access to affordable health insurance, as well as retirement benefits that reflect your service to the district. Teachers are eligible for retirement at age 62 with five years of service, age 60 with 20 years of service, or any age with 30 years of service. Teachers receive monthly retirement benefits equal to 2 percent of their final salary multiplied by the number of service years.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do I get teacher certification?

    There are many paths to teacher certification including a teacher preparation program or alternative certification program such as Teach for America. However, each path requires passing Praxis test scores.

  • How do I get a DC teaching license?

    You can apply for licensure on the OSSE website. What will be required for obtaining a teaching license will depend on your education background and experience.

  • How long does a DC teaching license last?

    There are two types of D.C. teaching licenses. An Initial License is nonrenewable and lasts three years, and a Standard license is renewable and last four years.

  • Does passing the Praxis make you certified?

    No, passing the Praxis tests does not make you certified. However, passing the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators tests is a requirement for certification.

  • What certifications are required for teaching?

    An Initial License or a Standard License is required by the District of Columbia to teach. There are many paths to certification, though a universal requirement is passing Praxis test scores.