Recruit and Retain: The Future of Education

Teacher Certification in Illinois

Illinois offers many teaching endorsements, but general standards are the same. The major requirements include completing a bachelor's degree and an approved teaching program. Candidates will have a student teaching experience or other equivalent experience. They will pass licensing tests required for their field. The assessment process will involve actual teaching. Illinois students can expect that these requirements will be met at the student stage.

Illinois issues full reciprocity to teachers who hold valid and comparable licenses and are degreed at the appropriate level. However, there are some instances where an individual educated out-of-state would need to make up some requirements to meet Illinois standards.

Educator Preparation Programs

Qualifying programs may be pursued in conjunction with bachelor’s degrees or at a later stage. Programs may be elementary, middle school, or secondary. Some are geared toward special education or K-12 special subjects. Special education endorsements may be valid across the school aged population (through age 21). K-12 endorsements are available in areas such as visual arts and music.

A student will receive one or more endorsements based on his or her initial teacher education program. Illinois is different than many states in that secondary education programs are often taught at the grades 9 to 12 level; the state has many endorsements that are designated specifically as senior high school. Middle school endorsements are offered in core subjects. Notably, teachers may have multiple endorsements. Some continue to pursue them.

The State Department of Education has provided a directory of approved programs ( Approvals include some alterative programs designed for degreed career changers (

There are common curricular components. Illinois educator preparation programs include content in the following:

  • Methods for teaching reading
  • Content area reading
  • Cross-categorical special education teaching methods
  • Teaching methods for English language learners

Students who complete out-of-state programs will need the above content if they are new to the field. The State Department of Education has provided lists of in-state and out-of-state programs that have had their curriculum in these four areas pre-approved. A number of out-of-state schools have gone through the process.

Adding Endorsements

The path to adding an endorsement can be relatively short. The timeframe depends on the endorsement and on the teacher’s current credentials. Illinois offers five senior high science endorsements and six senior high social studies endorsements. A teacher who was currently endorsed in a science discipline (e.g. biology) might add another (e.g. environmental science) by demonstrating 12 semester hours of discipline-specific coursework and passing an examination.

Some endorsements have specific coursework distributions; an example is reading teacher (

The Assessment Process

Illinois has its own teaching examinations, administered as part of the Illinois Licensure Testing System (ILTS). Comparable tests taken for licensure in other jurisdictions can be accepted.

There are three components to the assessment process: general academic skills, teaching ability, and competence in the subject area of endorsement. The tests of academic skills and teaching ability are a one-time requirement. Subject area tests may be required, though, at multiple points along the way – they are typically part of the process for adding endorsements.

Some education majors will need to take TAP 400, the Illinois test of basic skills/ general academics, for program entry. Others may be exempted based on their SAT or ACT scores. The score required varies, depending on date of administration.

Assessment is interwoven throughout the process. Illinois education students complete the Pearson edTPA in conjunction with student teaching. The edTPA is a performance assessment designed to measure an individual’s ability to teach. It is portfolio-based and includes video as well as other artifacts that demonstrate competence in planning, assessing, and instructing students.

There are many content tests, available in multiple choice form through the vendor, Pearson. Hebrew and Chinese are among the foreign language teaching endorsements. Illinois uses the NES test for gifted education. This is also under the Pearson banner. Information about the various content assessments is available on the ILTS website (

There has, in recent years, been a focus on the middle grades: ensuring educators’ preparedness for a population that enters with greater knowledge than in the past and with a greater need to learn from content area experts. This is reflected in the new middle grades content area examinations.

The Application Process

Illinois has an online system, the Educator Licensure Information System (ELIS). Some supporting documentation is emailed.

Illinois schools initiate the license application process for their students. They will apply after the school takes initial steps.

Out-of-state licensees will need to document their degree and license. Official transcripts may be mailed or emailed by the school.

Individuals who graduated from out-of-state schools but do not hold current licenses will need to submit additional documents. Forms for documenting program completion are available on the website of the State Department of Education ( The same form can be used to document completion of specific coursework required in Illinois.

The Professional Educator License (PEL) checklist can be accessed from the same page as the ELIS log-in (

Additional Information

Candidates should be aware that standards are subject to change and indeed have changed several times in Illinois in recent years. Some resources may be out-of-date. An Illinois student will find Illinois programs to be a very good resource -- they are sometimes asked to contact their school’s licensing officer.

The official source for information is the Illinois State Department of Education ( The ISBE Educator Effectiveness Division can be reached at 217-557-6763 or ‘licensure at’.