Recent changes to ESL certification requirements that could affect you

Brace yourself, as you’re about to enter a bowl of acronym soup, but it’s of importance to those working with English learners and certification issues around ESL.

The State Board for Educator Certification recently revised certification rules to amend and clarify provisions relating to identifying, placing, serving, and reclassifying English learners to align the rules with current agency practice and to make modifications to align with the proposed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) State Plan, Title III, Part A.

Whoosh! That’s a mouthful. So what does it mean? Here are some questions and answers:

Q: Do all teachers of English learners (EL) need to be ESL certified? Do all English Language Arts and Reading (ELAR) teachers need to be ESL certified?

A: Texas Administrative Code (TAC) 89.1210 (d) provides the descriptions for the two state-approved ESL program models that apply to ESL programs in prekindergarten through twelfth grade: ESL content-based and ESL pullout.

In order to meet the compliance standard for an ESL content-based program, ELs must receive all content instruction by an ESL certified teacher(s), which includes ELAR, mathematics, science, and social studies. In order to meet compliance standard for an ESL pull-out program, ELs must receive ELAR instruction by an ESL certified teacher(s).

Q: This is a big change, what happens if a school does not have the available staff to comply?

A: TEA has set up a waiver process for schools that do not yet have the certified staff necessary to comply with this recent change. Waivers are due November 1, 2018 for the 2018-2019 school year.

TEA has also provided a PowerPoint presentation about the different waiver scenarios and has helpful charts that include specific ways in which to provide ESL programs.

Q: What are the three pull-out models that meet compliance standards?

A: Inclusion: The ELAR teacher is also ESL certified and provides the ESL support within the classroom.

Co-teaching: The ELAR teacher co-teaches with an ESL certified teacher who provides the full-time ESL support within the classroom.

Pull-out: If the ELAR teacher is not ESL certified, ELs have an additional ESL course that provides ELAR instruction by a teacher who is certified in ELAR and ESL.

Q: Regarding ESL pull-out and ESL content-based models, what are the certification requirements when the ELAR TEKS are split between two teachers— an English language arts (ELA) teacher and a reading teacher?

A: When the ELAR TEKS are split between two teachers, ESL certification is required for both the ELA teacher and the reading teacher if no other ESL support is provided through co-teaching by an ESL teacher or pull-out by an additional ESL course.

This only applies when the required ELAR TEKS have been split and are taught by two teachers in order to meet the required curriculum (typically in 7th grade, for example); this does not apply to additional reading intervention courses that are not part of the required curriculum.

English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) I and ESOL II must also be taught by ESL certified teachers.

Q: Can a teacher who holds a TESOL certification teach in an ESL program?

No. TESOL certification is not listed as an approved certification for teaching in an ESL program. TAC 231 provides the Requirements for Public School Personnel Assignments, which lists teacher assignments with allowable certificates for all grade levels and subject areas.

There is no transition plan provided for schools that have to adjust for this. However, there is a waiver process schools may follow to delay the requirements. Please let us know if you have additional questions.

Additional resources can be found on TEA’s website, “Supporting English Learners in Texas.”