Teaching in Washington DC

Literally in the thick of American politics, the District of Columbia is a fascinating place to work and live. The area is rich in history, cultural activities, and is only a short distance from both the beach and the mountains—as well as several major cities including Baltimore, New York, and Philadelphia.

The District of Columbia also features one of the most ethnically, and economically, diverse populations in the country. People of all nationalities, religions, cultures, and social strata travel the streets and subways of the nation’s capital each day. Therefore, the District of Columbia needs teachers who can handle this diversity of life experiences, and still provide quality educational experiences for their students.

Educational Climate in the District of Columbia

The District of Columbia Public School (DCPS) system has been struggling fiercely for years. Some schools have performed well, while others faced the threat of a third round of school closures in 2012. Rigid examinations of each school take place every summer, with officials looking at which schools can be reformed and which schools are better off being shut down.

Teaching salaries in the District of Columbia

Currently, the average salary for a teacher in the District of Columbia is between $42,000 and $43,000. However, the new IMPACTplus performance-based payment system adopted in 2012 will likely affect that average.

Teachers are now paid according to their experience, and on how they perform in the classroom. Previously, pay was based solely on number of years of service, with automatic cost-of-living increases.

The city is making serious efforts to reforming the quality of education students are being offered. The DCPS now has a five-year strategic plan in place, “A Capital Commitment.” The plan is a roadmap to help build confidence in the DCPS community, while improving the quality of education in the District of Columbia.

One major recurring issue has been that the DCPS’ very loose tenure rules, combined with a strong teachers’ union, had made it extraordinarily difficult for bad teachers to be terminated. In 2012, these rules were reformed so that teachers would maintain their jobs only if their job performance merited it.

The system has already seen significant improvements in the areas of early education and special needs education. However, in the 2010-2011 school year, less than half of D.C. students scored “proficient” or “advanced” on the math and reading standardized tests, at both the elementary and secondary levels. Yet, these scores were an improvement over past years.

Another area of improvement focus by the DCPS is teacher support, including more professional development opportunities. The system is also reforming its teacher-assessment protocol and developing a constructive, results-based feedback program, IMPACT, to increase teacher effectiveness.

The year 2012 also saw the opening of a new private charter school, BASIS DC, which features “European and Asian content levels and the structure and environment of an American classroom.” The school model is based upon a successful Arizona franchise. Its flagship school, BASIS Tucson, was named the nation’s top charter school, and sixth-best school overall, by U.S. News & World Report; D.C.’s highest-ranked high school, by comparison, was 700th. The original charter school also boasts a 100 percent graduation rate. The hope is that this charter franchise will boost the quality of education significantly in the District of Columbia.

Career Outlook in the District of Columbia

According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are several areas of teaching shortage in the District of Columbia. Individuals looking for the best chance of obtaining jobs should focus on earning certification in the following subjects: math, science, technology, engineering, technical education, English, reading, language arts, English as a second language, foreign languages, health and physical education, and special education. Eighteen percent of DCPS kids, in fact, are in special-education programs.

There is also the national 100Kin10 movement, which is determined to prepare 100,000 science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) teachers in the next 10 years. Becoming certified in any of these areas of focus will increase your employment options.

It’s also worth noting that the District of Columbia is part of a major metropolitan area that connects to Maryland and Virginia, each with their own school districts. Many local teachers might serve in more than one of these districts during their careers.

What are some of the benefits of becoming a teacher in the District of Columbia?

The District of Columbia offers competitive teaching salaries, along with a host of other employee benefits. The DCPS provides health care plans for their teachers, including dental, emergency care, prescription drug plans; and some plans also offer flexible spending accounts.

When they reach retirement age, District of Columbia teachers usually apply to the District of Columbia Retirement Board. Retirement benefits are based on a combination of average salary and years of service, with the base benefit percentage increasing after five and 10 years; cost-of-living increases are also built into the plan.

Teachers may receive additional benefits by joining the various teaching organizations (Organizations for D.C. Teachers) available in the District of Columbia. There are many teacher groups and organizations in the District of Columbia that can help you connect with other teachers, help you learn more about your area of concentration, and more.

How do I become a teacher in the District of Columbia?

Potential teachers must first earn teacher certification in the district before they can be hired. Prior to applying, the Washington D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) requires a bachelor’s degree from a state-approved institution, as well as the completion of a teacher-preparation program. By completing the Washington DC teacher certification process, teaching candidates prove they understand the content and have acquired effective means to teach that content.

Potential D.C. teachers are also required to pass the PRAXIS exam. Teachers looking for an endorsement in a specific teaching area or areas must also complete PRAXIS II subject assessments.

For more information on teacher certification, as well as links and advice regarding documents, the process, teacher-preparation programs, and contact information, visit teaching-certification.com.