Are ELL-only instructors required to hold a specialist certification or endorsement?

Are ELL-only instructors required to hold a specialist certification or endorsement?

November 2014


Research indicates ELLs perform best when ELL teachers are required to have state certification as an ESL, bilingual or other type of ELL teacher. Certification types typically include one or more of the following:
  • ESL
  • Bilingual
  • Teaching English to speakers of other languages (ESOL)
  • Structured English immersion
 
Just over 20 states explicitly require ELL teachers to have specialist certification. About five states require ELL specialist certification in department guidelines rather than in state policies. Another 14 states reference ELL specialist certification in state policy, but it is unclear if such certification is required.

Unless otherwise noted, all information in this resource was gathered from state statutes only and does not include policies in state-level guidance documents or arising from court orders.

Are ELL-only instructors required to hold a specialist certification or endorsement?
Federal Law
  • School districts must provide the staff necessary to implement their chosen instruction program.
  • School districts must provide professional development to any teachers, administrators, and staff who work with ELLs. The training must focus on methods for working with ELLs, be research-based, and be long enough and often enough to have a positive and lasting impact.
  • Bilingual program teachers must be able to speak, read, and write both languages, should have received adequate instruction in bilingual education methods, and should be fully qualified to teach their subject.
Alabama
No
Alaska
No. However, districts have authority to require a bilingual instructor without a regular (Type A) certification to enter into a training program that leads to a Type A certificate. In addition districts must outline specific recruitment and selection processes for bilingual program staff and must establish, through cooperative agreements with institutions of higher education, and make available a career ladder for its bilingual paraprofessionals which leads to Type A certification.
Arizona Yes. ESL, bilingual, and structured English immersion teachers are required to hold respective endorsements. Teachers with a bilingual endorsement may also teach ESL and structured English immersion classes.
Arkansas No
California Yes. The commission on teacher credentialing issues authorizations for teachers providing services to ELLs, including authorizations for teachers providing specially designed content instruction delivered in English, content instruction delivered primarily in the primary language, and instruction for English language development.
Colorado
No
Connecticut Yes. Teachers must have a Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) certificate or a bilingual certificate. If a local or regional board of education is not able to hire a sufficient number of certified bilingual education teachers, the board of education may apply to the Commissioner of Education for permission to use a TESOL-certified teacher instead.
Delaware Yes. The state requires either a bilingual certificate or an English to speakers of other lanugages (ESOL) certificate.
District of Columbia No
Florida
Unclear. State policy requires that basic ESOL instruction must be provided by "appropriately qualified personnel". The state offers an ESOL certificate and an ESOL endorsement, but it is unclear if either of these are required.
Georgia Yes. Teachers must have the professional English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) endorsement.
Hawaii No
Idaho Unclear. The state offers a bilingual endorsement and an English as a New Language (ENL) endorsement, but it not clear if either are required.
Illinois Yes. Bilingual education and teachers of English as a Second Language programs must hold respective license endorsements.
Indiana Unclear. The state offers an English as a new language (ENL) license, but it is not clear if the license is required. In addition, requirements for the ENL license appear to be the same as requirements for the standard teaching license. 
Iowa Yes. Teachers must hold an English as a second language (ESL) endorsement.
Kansas Yes. Teachers must have an English for speakers of other languages endorsement (ESOL), though it is unclear what is required to obtain this endorsement.
Kentucky Yes, though it is unclear what is required to obtain an ESL endorsement.
Louisiana No
Maine Unclear. The state offers an ESL endorsement, although it is unclear if the endorsement is required. Candidates may obtain this endorsement by one of three pathways and there is a conditional certificate for applicants who are not eligible through the pathways. 
Maryland Unclear. The state offers an ESOL certification but it is unclear if the certification is required.
Massachusetts Yes. Teachers providing sheltered English instruction must have a sheltered English immersion (SEI) endorsement.
Michigan Unclear. State law requires the state board to create rules for endorsing qualified bilingual instructors but does not specify that an endorsement is required. The requirements of the endorsement are also unclear.
Minnesota Yes. Teachers providing instruction to ELLs must have a bilingual/bicultural or ESL license.
Mississippi
No
Missouri Unclear. The state offers an ELL license, but it is unclear if the license is required.
Montana No
Nebraska Yes. Teachers providing instruction to ELLs must have an ESL or bilingual education endorsement. Bilingual program teachers must have both endorsements.
Nevada Yes. Teachers providing instruction to ELLs must have an ESL or bilingual education endorsement.
New Hampshire Not required in state policy but required by the department of education's guidebook.
New Jersey Yes. Candidates for a bilingual or ESL endorsement must complete a department-approved training program.
New Mexico Yes. Bilingual multicultural education programs must be instructed by teachers endorsed in bilingual education, TESOL, or certified in Native American language and culture. For instructors in ESL programs, specialist certification is not required in state policy but required by the department of education's guidebook.
New York Yes. Candidates for the bilingual and ESL certificates must complete an approved preparation program.
North Carolina Unclear. State policy references an ESL license, but it is unclear if the license is required and what the requirements are.
North Dakota Yes. Teachers must have an ESL or bilingual endorsement or a major in teaching English as a second or other language. Applicants for the bilingual or ESL endorsement must complete required coursework within two years of assignment to teach bilingual education or ESL and must file a plan outlining how the endorsement will be completed. 
Ohio Unclear. State policy outlines requirements for the teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) and bilingual endorsements, but it is unclear if either endorsement is required.
Oklahoma Unclear. State policy outlines requirements for an ESL license, but it is unclear if it is required.
Oregon Unclear. State policy requires ELLs to be taught by "credentialed staff" trained in instructional strategies effective with second language learners or by tutors supervised by "credentialed staff". Oregon provides English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and bilingual endorsements, although it is unclear if these endorsements are required. Candidates for the endorsements must complete an approved teacher preparation program.
Pennsylvania Not required in state policy but required by the department of education's guidebook.
Rhode Island Yes. ELL instructors must have an ESL or bilingual certificate. Candidates for the bilingual-bicultural and ESL certificates must demonstrate content competencies prescribed by the organization Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).
South Carolina Not required in state policy but required by the department of education’s guidebook.
South Dakota Not required in state policy but required by the department of education's guidebook.
Tennessee Not required in state policy but required by the state board of education's policies.
Texas Yes. Teachers providing instruction in bilingual education and English as a second language programs (or other special language programs) must have a bilingual education or ESL certification.
Utah Yes. Teachers working with ELLs must have the ESL endorsement, and teachers in dual immersion programs must have a dual immersion endorsement.
Vermont Unclear. The state offers a bilingual education endorsement but it is unclear if it is required.
Virginia Unclear. The state offers an ESL endorsement but it is unclear if it is required. 
Washington Unclear. The state offers bilingual education and English language learner certifications, but it is unclear if these certifications are required. Candidates for these certifications must complete a state-approved endorsement program in the subject area.
West Virginia No
Wisconsin The state offers an ESL supplemental license and a bilingual supplemental license. It is unclear if the ESL supplemental license is required for teachers providing instruction for ELLs and license requirements are not specified in state policy. However, the bilingual supplemental is required for instructors teaching in a bilingual-bicultural program. High school students in a bilingual-bicultural program must also have access to a bilingual counselor. If bilingual teachers for language groups are unavailable (except for Spanish), the program may be taught by certified ESL teachers with the superintendent's approval and if there is at least one bilingual teacher's aide.
Wyoming No


© 2018 by the Education Commission of the States (ECS). All rights reserved. ECS is the only nationwide, nonpartisan interstate compact devoted to education. 700 Broadway #810, Denver, CO 80203-3442

To request permission to excerpt part of this publication, either in print or electronically, please contact the Education Commission of the States’ Communications Department at 303.299.3609 or askinner@ecs.org.

Your Education Policy Team  www.ecs.org