Recruit and Retain: The Future of Education

Teacher Certification in the District of Columbia

Washington DC teachers earn their licenses by completing bachelor's degrees and demonstrating competence in teaching. Those who complete approved educator preparation programs at the bachelor’s level or beyond can be eligible for a standard certificate right after they meet program requirements. Some pathways to initial certification are dependent on success as a professional in the classroom (earning an evaluation of ‘effective’).

Teaching Degree Program Options in DC

OSSE has provided a directory of DC teaching programs with notations about grade level ( Many varied options exist at the bachelor's level, from elementary education to specialized secondary or all-grade subjects. A person who wants to be a music teacher, for example, can opt for a program that is tailored to suit his or her specific music interest: vocal or instrumental.

The OSSE list includes nontraditional programs like Teach for America and the Capital Teaching Residency. One focus of the Capital Teaching Residency is early childhood education. Teachers receive mentoring during their residency year and additional coaching as they complete their post-residency service commitments.

There are also plenty of options for individuals with bachelor's degrees to complete traditional academic programs. They may come away with master's degrees.

Teaching Credential Areas

The District of Columbia issues early childhood credentials and elementary grades 1 through 6 credentials. It offers middle school (4-8) credentials that correspond to core areas; there is also a general middle school credential. Art/ performing art credential areas are designated Pre-K through 12th grade. Foreign language credential areas may be designated Pre-K or K through 12th grade. Secondary credentials are offered in core academic areas and in fields like computer science and business. Special education credentials may be categorical or non-categorical.

Notably, educators are often credentialed in multiple areas. Some complement each other and indeed may apply to the same teaching situation - even the same classroom.

Initial Teacher Certification

In some cases, a person will be issued a credential at the initial level upon first application. One example: when the person takes on a teaching role before completing his or her degree. A person credentialed at the initial level will have passed at least some of the examinations required in DC. Specific requirements will depend on the pathway. A person who is concurrently enrolled in a teacher preparation program and credentialed at the initial level will have passed the full set (

Prospective teachers should be aware that teaching is a broad discipline and that requirements and opportunities will vary a good deal, depending on what (and who) one intends to teach. They also vary depending on where one teaches.

DC has many Local Education Associations (LEAs). A substantial portion of DC children attend charter schools. DC charter school teachers are not mandated by law to hold teaching licenses ( The school itself may of course mandate it. Hiring standards can be much higher than minimum legal standards. Some pathways, though, are designed to help teachers who have proved their effectiveness teaching in situations where licensing was not required.

A credential can be issued at LEA request to an individual who has passed basic skills and subject area tests (

DC Public Schools, the largest LEA in Washington DC, has stated that a person can apply if he or she is eligible for a credential ( This doesn't necessarily mean a standard credential. The person may be eligible based on current enrollment in a teacher preparation program. He or she could also be eligible through a program like Teach for America.

There are many resources to help prospective teachers understand their options. The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) is the credentialing authority and has the final word. Other resources include the DC public school system, the testing vendor, and the organization that supports DC's charter schools. Colleges with approved programs can also get one heading in the right direction.

Examination Requirements

A first-time teacher will take three tests en route to licensure: a basic skills test, a pedagogy test, and a test specific to the subject area. DC uses the Praxis series. Some individuals will be exempted from the Praxis CORE (a test of general academic competence) on the basis of high SAT or GRE scores.

The Principles of Teaching and Learning (pedagogy) test is offered at four levels: early childhood, grades K-6, grades 5-9, or grades 7-12.

OSSE has provided a list of accepted examinations with test codes and minimum scores ( The elementary subject test includes four subtests, corresponding to core areas of instruction; some candidates opt to take subtests separately.

Out-of-State Teachers and Reciprocity

Teachers can be licensed by reciprocity on the basis of having met comparable requirements ( In some cases, they will need to complete a missing component, such as examination.

Teachers who hold licenses in other states can be licensed in DC at the initial level on the basis of recent teaching experience ( OSSE will look for two years during the five year period preceding. The teacher will need to have been rated as effective during the last year. Teachers who utilize this pathway are not required to document completion of a preparation program but do need to demonstrate a bachelor's.

The Application Process

DC requires criminal history checks. Some individuals will be exempted from going through this step at the application level because they have done so in the context of employment with DC Public Schools.

DC uses an online application system, the Educator Credential Information System (ECIS.) Some documents will need to be scanned. Documentation requirements will vary by pathway and license level OSSE has provided instructions for each. In many cases, annual year-end evaluations will be required.

Additional Information

Washington DC educators are licensed by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. Licensure questions can be addressed to ‘osse.asklicensure at’.

OSSE has provided statistics about local education agencies. More than 47% attended charter schools in 2017 to 2018 (