Education Requirements for Becoming an English Teacher in Washington DC

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English teachers have a valuable role to play in making sure their students are ready for the challenges of 21st century literacy. A wide body of research has shown that reading and other communication skills are essential for success in life, and English teachers today must be well equipped to prepare their students with these skills. In the District of Columbia, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education’s Educator Licensure Services department handles teacher licensing.

To become an English teacher in the District of Columbia, follow these steps:

Complete a Bachelor Degree and Teacher Prep Program
Complete Testing
Apply for Your License
Maintain and Upgrade Your License
Pursue Graduate Work



Step 1. Complete a Bachelor Degree and Teacher Prep Program

The initial step to becoming an English teacher in the District of Columbia is generally to complete a bachelor’s degree and state-approved teacher prep program at a regionally accredited university or college. At the time of writing, the district had 14 state-approved teacher prep programs; a list can be found here.

State law requires that you complete a minimum of 48 semester hours in a program of general or liberal education, including each of the below:

  1. Humanities: 12 semester hours, including at least one course in each of the following areas:
    • English grammar and composition
    • Literature, art, music, philosophy
    • Foreign language
  2. Social Sciences: 12 semester hours, including at least one course in each of the following areas:
    • American history
    • History, anthropology, sociology, economics, political science, geography, psychology, world studies, or contemporary world cultures
  3. Natural Sciences and Mathematics: 12 semester hours, with at least one course in of the following areas:
    • Lab science
    • Math
  4. Health and Physical Education 4 semester hours; including courses on substance abuse education
  5. Eight semester hours from areas 1, 2, or 3 of the above

To become certified to teach English in high school, you must also complete 36 semester hours in each of the following: writing process, American literature, English literature, linguistics, oral communications, world literature or comparative literature, multicultural literature, drama, journalism, or media, adolescent literature, and mythology.

To teach reading at the K-12 level, you must obtain a master’s degree from an accredited institution in reading or a reading related area; complete two or more years of successful classroom teaching experience; and also complete coursework in the following areas:

  1. Clinical or laboratory practicum
  2. Diagnosis and correction of reading, learning styles and disabilities
  3. Literature of children or adolescents
  4. Human growth and development
  5. Collaborative planning and communicating
  6. Reading research
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Step 2. Complete Testing

To become an art teacher in DC you must pass all three portions of the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators. The Praxis Core tests measure basic skills in reading, writing, and math, through multiple-choice questions and two thirty-minute essay questions. You may take the tests separately or take all three together. In DC, passing scores are as follows:

  • Reading: 156
  • Writing: 162
  • Math: 150

You are also required to pass various Praxis II subject area tests, which vary based on the grade and precise area you will teach:

  • Middle School English/Language Arts (Grades 4–8): Middle School English Language Arts and Principles of Learning and Teaching: Grades 5–9 tests
  • Secondary English: English Language Arts: Content Knowledge and Principles of Learning and Teaching: Grades 7–12 tests

The Principles of Learning and Teaching tests measures general pedagogical knowledge through multiple-choice questions and constructed-response prompts based on case studies.

The Middle School English & Language Arts test is a 160-minute exam that includes 130 minutes for 110 selected-response questions (mostly multiple choice), and 30 minutes for two constructed-response questions. The test has been aligned with the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts and other national standards. The test components include Reading (46% of your score), Language Use and Vocabulary (11%), Writing, Speaking, and Listening (18%), and English Language Arts Instruction (25%). A study guide is available here.

The English Language Arts: Content Knowledge test is a computer-delivered 150-minute test with 130 selected response questions, most of which are multiple choice. The content is divided into three categories: reading (49 questions, 38% of your score); Language Use and Vocabulary (33 questions, 25% of your score), and Writing, Speaking, and Listening (48 questions, 37% of your score). A study guide is available here.

More information on the tests necessary for each license area is available here. In DC, all ETS tests are administered by computer, unless an exception is made for disability reasons. Test dates are available here. Three locations provide testing in DC, and their addresses are here.



Step 3: Apply for Your License

To become an English teacher, the first license to apply for is the Regular I, which is valid for two years and non-renewable. You apply for this license while enrolled in a teacher prep program. To apply, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Hold a Bachelor’s Degree
  • Verify current enrollment in a state-approved educator prep program
  • Provide verification of current employment in a local education agency
  • Passing scores or equivalents for all exams above

You may find an application for a Regular I license here. A $50 processing fee applies, and a criminal history is also required.

The next stage of licensure is the Regular II, which is valid for four years and is renewable. In general, you apply for this license after completing your teacher prep program and passing all exams noted above. An application for a Regular II license is available here.



Step 4: Maintain and Upgrade Your License

To renew a Regular II license, you must submit evidence of six semester hours or 90 contact hours (or a combination) of professional development activities, which must be completed within the four years prior to the date you submit your license application. Additional conditions apply:

  • A minimum of three semester hours or 45 clock must be directly related to English language arts education
  • The remaining required three semester hours or 45 clock hours may include any professional development activity relevant to Pre-K–12 education and/or serving Pre-K–12 students. These general education classes/workshops may be used to renew more than one license.

Examples of acceptable renewal activities include courses sponsored by educational or professional organizations; courses at accredited colleges or universities; and workshops, conferences, or seminars sponsored by local education agencies or school districts.

Renewal applications and further information may be found here. Renewal applications may be submitted up to 90 days prior to your license’s expiration date.



Step 5: Pursue Graduate Work

Post-baccalaureate academic work can further your teaching skills, deepen your experience, and often provide a raise based on school district salary schedules. Nine schools in the District of Columbia currently offer graduate programs in educator preparation of various types.

These include the following:

  • Graduate Certificate in Curriculum and Instruction
  • Graduate Certificate in Teaching
  • Master of Arts in Teaching
  • Educating for Change (M.Ed.)
  • Master of Arts in Education: Teacher Preparation Program



District of Columbia English Teacher Salaries

Probably one of the most unusual facts about the District of Columbia is that it’s not a state, it is a U.S. territory comprised entirely of one city: Washington. Our nations’s capital is made up of just sixty-eight square miles. It has over 650,000 residents with 113 public schools. Not only is Washington, D.C. unique in its governance, it is also unusual in the way teachers are paid in its public schools.

A few years ago, Washington, D.C. Public School District (DCPS) adopted a teacher salary redesign. They became one of the ten districts in the nation at that time to formally qualify a teacher’s performance as part of their annual salary benefits. For instance, an English teacher at Ballou Stay High School who has a bachelor’s degree will start out their career earning $51,539. A teacher at Benjamin Banneker High who has a PhD or a master’s plus sixty credits will earn the top salary for any entry-level teacher of $60,128.

While these English teachers may continue to earn steps in their salaries based on their education and longevity, the greater focus is now based on their performance. They will have a greater chance at earning a higher salary if they can prove they are highly effective teachers.

As an example, one teacher who had been teaching for some time was reported to have a base salary of $96,000 in 2013, and then—because of this new program—earned an additional $25,000 bonus as a highly effective teacher (teaching in a high-poverty school). This same teacher was also given an additional $10,000 for outstanding work for dedication to his profession. This is more than the teacher could have earned from his step increases alone. These performance bonuses are what DCPS system strives to hone in on in going forward.

Other District-wide Salary Examples:

  • BA+ 15 credit: $53,256
  • BA or MA + 30 Credits: $54,975
  • Highly Effective teachers – Up to $25,000 in annual bonuses
  • Highly Effective teachers – Increase base salary up to $27,000

To see other salary data for metro areas surrounding the Washington, D.C. view the chart below:

Area Name
Annual Median Salary
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV

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