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FAQs for English Learner Teacher Authorizations

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about requirements for teaching English Learners.

FAQs on the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) Teaching English Learner web page External link opens in new window or tab.
CTC web pages and resources regarding EL teacher authorization


California has two state educational agencies which provide guidance and implement legislation regarding English learner teaching authorization. The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (Commission or CTC) is the authorizing agency for teachers in California. The California Department of Education (CDE) administers and oversees state and federal programs and regulations to support schools, including programs for English learner (EL) students. Additionally, County Offices of Education monitor for compliance under the Williams Case.

State and federal statutes, regulations, local policies, student population, grade level, the content of a course being taught, and the instructional approach all factor into determining which authorizations a particular teacher is required to possess. A teacher assigned to EL students will need an authorization for instruction of EL students in addition to an authorization in the content area of instruction. Specific teacher authorizations are based on the rights and needs of the students to an appropriate education.

EL students require Designated English language development (ELD) and Integrated ELD, which typically utilizes Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English (SDAIE) strategies. In addition, EL students who are placed in a language acquisition program other than structured English immersion require primary language instruction (L1). All EL services must be provided by teachers authorized for such instruction until these students are reclassified as fluent English proficient. Through monitoring reviews, the CDE specifically monitors teachers assigned to core academic subjects, such as courses required for graduation and promotion. The CDE also monitors whether former EL students are succeeding in the regular program at a level of parity to their English-speaking peers. Recent legislation requiring EL students to have access to the standard instructional program can be found on the CDE English Learner Legislation web page. The CTC monitors credential assignments, including subject matter, grade-level, special education, and EL authorization per the provisions in California Education Code (EC) Section 44258.9 External link opens in new window or tab..

Does California state law require authorization to provide instruction to EL students?

California EC requires individuals to hold the appropriate authorization prior to providing instructional services, including specified EL student services. The pertinent statutes include: EC Section 44001 External link opens in new window or tab., EC Section 44830(a) External link opens in new window or tab., EC Section 44831 External link opens in new window or tab., and particularly EC Section 44253.1 External link opens in new window or tab., which states:

... For these pupils to have access to quality education, their special needs must be met by teachers who have essential skills and knowledge related to English language development, specially designed content instruction delivered in English, and content instruction delivered in the pupils’ primary languages . . .

The CTC is responsible for establishing the teacher authorization process by which teachers are certified as having specified knowledge, skills, and abilities for providing instruction to EL students.

Are all teachers, transitional kindergarten through grade twelve (TK–12), with one or more EL students in their classrooms required to be EL certified?

Yes. Any teacher assigned to provide EL services, including Designated ELD or Integrated ELD (also known as SDAIE), or L1 to EL students, must hold the appropriate credential or certificate. EL students identified in TK–12 public schools in California are required to receive services designed to meet their linguistic and academic needs, from authorized teachers, based on assessments made by the local educational agency (LEA). State laws do not provide exemptions for a small or particular number of EL students in a class.

It does not matter whether there is one student or all the students in a class requiring English learner services, the teacher must hold the appropriate basic and English learner authorization. (August 26, 2005, Joint Correspondence from O'Connell and Swofford (PDF), discussing Williams v State of California.)

What is the timeline for certificated staff to attain EL authorization?

Certification is required on the date when a teacher is assigned to provide instructional services to an EL student or sooner if it is required by the employer.

Can a district require EL authorization for all teachers?

Yes. The employer is responsible for determining how EL services will be provided and for appropriate assignment of staff to meet the needs of their students. In all cases, the district has the obligation to ensure that teachers providing instructional services to EL students are appropriately authorized.

With this obligation, local school boards have created policies requiring that all teachers attain such authorization. Program design, placement of students, and teacher hiring and retention practices are local decisions. Incentives and sanctions are at the discretion of the district.

If a district is requesting that their teachers hold an EL authorization even though they are not providing any EL services, they may do so as an employment requirement for the position. If the requirement is for employment and not for appropriate authorization, the CTC does not have purview in the issue.

Are there any teachers who provide instruction to EL students exempt from this certification requirement?

No. State laws do not specify exemptions for specific subject areas or particular number of EL students in a class. This requirement includes areas such as special education and vocational education.

Providing services such as counseling or speech therapy does not require an EL authorization, as the EL authorization is a teaching authorization.

How can a credentialed teacher with tenure obtain EL authorization?

There are a few paths to authorization for credentialed teachers to provide instruction in Designated ELD, Integrated ELD, L1, or any combinations of these approaches. The Cross-cultural Language and Academic Development (CLAD) authorization is available to all teachers regardless of their years of tenure. For information about the requirements for the CLAD Certificate through coursework or the California Teachers of English Learners (CTEL) Examination, see the CTC’s CLAD Certificate Credential leaflet External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF).

Senate Bill 395 (Hughes, 1999) established eligibility criteria for California veteran teachers to participate in a staff development program to receive a Certificate of Completion of Staff Development (CCSD) as an alternate pathway to EL authorization. The eligibility criteria for this CCSD are specified in EC Section 44253.10 External link opens in new window or tab.. The CCSD authorizes a veteran teacher to provide specially designed content instruction in English to EL students. On July 8, 2004, Assembly Bill 2913 extended the January 1, 2005 deadline for the completion of this staff development program to January 1, 2008. 

The CCSD is no longer available to teachers unless they meet eligibility requirements clarified in SB 1292 (Chapter 752, Statutes of 2006) for Career Technical Education (CTE) teachers and for holders of service credentials with a special class authorization.

If a teacher moves to California and has a Master’s degree in Bilingual Education from another state, can a district require that this teacher obtain a Cross-cultural Language and Academic Development (CLAD) certificate in addition to their Master’s degree?

Yes. California has specific requirements pertaining to EL authorization. The CTC’s English Learner Authorization/CLAD Certificate leaflet External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF) provides detailed information regarding these requirements.

Can an individual earn a Bilingual authorization on the basis of a comparable out-of-state bilingual authorization?

AB 2248 (Chap. 103, Stats, 2016) was signed by the Governor on July 25, 2016, and became effective on January 1, 2017. The bill allows an individual who holds a valid California teaching credential or permit and is able to present a professional-level out-of-state credential with a comparable bilingual authorization to earn a California bilingual authorization. For more information read the CTC’s Coded Correspondence External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF) on this issue.

If an individual from out of state is applying for a California teaching credential, must they apply separately for EL authorization?

The CTC has provisions for comparability of credentials from some states. Although it does not extend to a bilingual authorization, it does, on a limited basis, apply to authorization to serve EL students. The individual will need to earn a California credential in one of the available subjects. For questions and guidance regarding comparability of your out of state education and experience toward California authorization for teachers of EL students, please refer to the CTC website External link opens in new window or tab., specifically the CTC’s English Learner Authorization/CLAD Certificate leaflet External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF), or contact the Commission’s Information Services Section by email at

Are there resources available for local educational agencies (LEAs) to acquire more bilingual teachers?

Yes. Funding for the Bilingual Teacher Professional Development Program (BTPD) was established by AB 99, Chapter 15 and Section 54 Article 5 (commencing with Section 52200) and added to Chapter 7 of Part 28 of Division 4 of Title 2 of the California EC. Each grant project will receive $625,000 for a performance period starting January 1, 2018, through June 30, 2020. More information and resources are available on the CDE BTPD Program Descriptions web page and the CDE Educator Excellence and Equity Grant Programs web page.

Is a Certificate of Completion of Staff Development (CCSD) equivalent to the CLAD?

No. The CCSD does not authorize ELD instruction in a departmentalized setting at elementary, middle, or high school, including middle or high school ELD courses, or instruction where students are pulled out of a self-contained classroom at the elementary level and grouped for ELD. Please refer to the CTC Assignment Resources External link opens in new window or tab. for additional information.

May a teacher with a CCSD provide instruction in a classroom composed of only EL students?

Yes, a CCSD holder may provide instruction, authorized by their basic credential, to EL students regardless of the number of EL students in their classroom. They may not provide ELD in a departmentalized setting, as clarified in the previous answer.

How did the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) impact the “highly qualified” teacher requirements under No Child Left behind (NCLB)?

ESSA does not include the term, “highly qualified teacher.” Instead, states must establish their own definition of an "effective teacher."

Teachers must meet state authorization requirements and hold the appropriate credential or authorization in the content subject area of instruction. The state requires teachers who are assigned to provide instruction to EL students to have the appropriate authorization for the EL services that they provide. If teachers are assigned to provide primary language instruction, they should have a Bilingual Cross-cultural Language and Academic Development (BCLAD) authorization. If teachers provide Designated ELD or Integrated ELD, they should have a CLAD authorization or equivalent.

ESSA requires LEAs accepting Title I, Part A funds to develop plans to address disparities in low-income and minority students’ access to effective, in-field, or experienced teachers compared to their higher-income, non-minority cohorts.

Can a teacher with Bilingual Cross-cultural Language and Academic Development (BCLAD)/CLAD authorization be assigned to teach Designated ELD if they do not have an English Credential?

This decision needs to be made based on whether students enrolled in the ELD class will receive English credits. If enrolled students will receive English credits, as opposed to ELD or elective credits, the teacher must possess an English credential.

Can any teacher with BCLAD/CLAD authorization teach ELD?

All teachers that possess BCLAD or CLAD authorization may teach Integrated ELD. In order to teach Designated ELD, however, teachers should have the correct base credential relevant to the type of credits received by the students enrolled in the specific course. EL authorizations are supplemental to their base credential and therefore relate back to a teacher’s multiple subject, single subject, or Education Specialist teaching credential.

Questions:   Language Policy and Leadership Office | 916-319-0845
Last Reviewed: Thursday, December 28, 2023
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