ESL Teacher Certification in Tennessee

English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers work at various grade levels. Learn how prospective ESL teachers in Tennessee can apply for their initial teaching license as well as some details about the required tests.

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Increased economic globalization and migration into the U.S. has led to a significant increase in ELLs (English Language Learners) across the country including the state of Tennessee. This has increased the demand for qualified ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers in the state. To become an ESL teacher in Tennessee, it is necessary to obtain an ESL endorsement. Here, the steps that need to be followed to qualify for this endorsement are described.

ESL Teaching Certification Requirements in Tennessee

Average Salary for Teachers in Tennessee (2017)* $48,070 (Adult, Basic, and Secondary Education and Literacy Teachers)
Required Degree Bachelor's degree
Degree Field English as a Second Language (ESL), Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
Testing Requirements Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators (Core), Principles of Learning and Teaching (Pedagogy), English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESL)

Source: *Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Earn a Degree

To acquire a teacher license in Tennessee, candidates must obtain a bachelor's degree from a regionally-accredited college or university. Additionally, while completing a degree, candidates should undertake an educator preparation program approved by the State Board of Education.

Candidates, who ultimately wish to obtain ESL as a primary endorsement, should choose a degree in a field that will maximize their ESL knowledge. An ideal program would include classes in subjects such as linguistics, foreign languages, cultural studies, English language and psychology of language learning. At the very least the degree should contain the equivalent of a minor in TESOL.

Candidates, who already hold at least a bachelor's degree with a minor in ESL, can enroll in one of Tennessee's alternative educator preparation programs. These programs provide a short but intensive ESL pedagogy program and allow candidates to begin teaching more quickly than other pathways.

For existing holders of a Tennessee teaching license in a subject area other than ESL, there is the option of adding ESL as an add-on endorsement. In this instance, a classroom ESL practicum which runs for at least 30 clock hours must be completed, or candidates must have already completed a semester of supervised ESL teaching. To complete the requirement for the add-on ESL endorsement, the ESL teacher exams described below must also be successfully completed.

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Step 2: Pass all Required Testing

ESL teacher candidates must pass three tests which are all administered by ETS. These tests consist of basic skills, pedagogy, and ESL exams. The specific tests are as follows:

  • Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators - basic skills
  • Principles of Learning and Teaching - pedagogy
  • English to Speakers of Other Languages - ESL

The Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators exam must be successfully completed in order to gain entry into an educator preparation program. This exam assesses the basic skills which are necessary for being an effective teacher. The exam is divided into three sub-tests that can be taken all at the same time or separately:

  • Core Academic Skills for Educators: Reading (code: 5712, minimum pass score - 156)
  • Core Academic Skills for Educators: Writing (code: 5722, minimum pass score - 162)
  • Core Academic Skills for Educators: Mathematics (code: 5732, minimum pass score - 150)

The Principles of Learning and Teaching is a pedagogy exam which can be taken at around the time of graduation from an educator preparation program and is compulsory for all teaching licenses. There are four versions of this exam, and the one(s) which a teacher candidate will take will depend on which grade levels they aspire to teach. These exams and their associated minimum pass scores are as follows:

  • Principles of Learning and Teaching: Early Childhood (code: 5621, minimum pass score - 157)
  • Principles of Learning and Teaching: Grades K-6 (code: 5622, minimum pass score - 160)
  • Principles of Learning and Teaching: Grades 5-9 (code: 5623, minimum pass score - 160)
  • Principles of Learning and Teaching: Grades 7-12 (code 5624, minimum pass score - 157)

The English to Speakers of Other Languages PreK-12 exam (code: 5362) assesses whether candidates are qualified to be an ESL teacher. The minimum pass score is 155.

Candidate preparation programs will not recommend candidates for a license to the Board of Education until these exams have been completed successfully.

Step 3: Apply for an Initial Teaching License with Endorsement

Once the education, experience and testing requirements are satisfied, candidates may apply for an initial teaching license in Tennessee. The application form should be marked differently depending on the candidates' background and submitted by an approved Educator Preparation Provider through TNCompass:

  • Candidates should indicate that they are applying for an Initial License if the Tennessee licensure requirements have been successfully completed.
  • Candidates who hold a teaching license from a different state should indicate that they are applying for an Out of State License.
  • Candidates who wish to add an endorsement to an existing license, should mark, 'Amendment to Add Endorsement Area', and indicate that the endorsement being sought is, 'English as a Second Language PreK-12'.

Completed applications should include official college transcripts and proof of ETS test scores.

ESL Teacher Certification Resources

Please follow the links below to access our resources for helping ESL teacher candidates study for their Tennessee teacher certification exams:

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