University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

#6 AR Teacher Corps Founded at UA to Address Teacher Shortages in High-Need Areas …. And Teacher Prep. Wars Continue!

In The View from the OEP on December 18, 2013 at 8:21 am

The OEP is nearly halfway through its Top 10 Arkansas Education Stories of 2013. Stay tuned as we continue the countdown to #1.

TOP 10 Arkansas Ed Stories

Arkansas Teacher Corps Founded at University of Arkansas

ATCIn March, 2013, HB 1364 was signed into law, which amended the Teacher Licensure Law for nontraditional applicants, to include a license pathway through the Arkansas Teacher Corps (ATC) program. The ATC was created to supply teachers to economically disadvantaged communities with teacher shortages, especially in southern and central Arkansas. It is modeled after Teach for America, but has some differences (see Quick Facts below).

QUICK FACTS

  • Aims to recruit Arkansans
  • Alternative certification/6 week summer training
  • 3 year commitment
  • required to pass PRAXIS exams
  • teach in high-need geographic areas
  • teach in high-need content areas
  • $5,000-a-year stipend in addition to full time teaching salary

Arkansas Teacher Corps began accepting applications in early 2013 and the selection process began. In May, the ATC introduced 21 fellows that were selected (pictured below).

atc fellows

In August 2013, the twenty Fellows began teaching in high need districts and subjects across central and southern Arkansas, marking its first year in the classroom. In addition, 189 Teach for America teachers began the 2013-2014 school year, serving in eastern/southeastern Arkansas.

ATC, much like its predecessor, TFA, has not gone without opposition. Just for fun, we at the OEP and the UA entered into the fray!u of a

  • In May 2013, our UA colleagues, Professors McComas and Goering, wrote an opinion piece in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, critical of Teach for America and its Arkansas counterpart, Arkansas Teacher Corps. Some of the concerns stated in the article are that TFA teachers do not stay long in the profession, have limited preparation and that ATC is a social experiment that affects Arkansas’ most vulnerable students. Gary Ritter of the OEP wrote a response in the Democrat-Gazette (which can be accessed here) in which he asserts that the attrition of TFA teachers is roughly equal to that of other teachers in high-need schools and points out that ATC requires a 3 year commitment, which is greater than TFA. Most importantly, according to Ritter, the districts served by ATC and TFA in Arkansas would not be able to place qualified teachers in their classrooms were it not for these alternative certification programs.
  • In June 2013, another U of A Professor, Samuel Totten, contributed to the discussion in a Arkansas Democrat Gazette OP-ED piece, challenging many of McComas and Goering’s assertions. Others Arkansans also weigh in, on different sides of the issue. Also in June, NPR, U.S. News & World Report, and others highlight a controversial report published by the National Council on Teacher Quality which claims that traditional Teacher Prep programs are failing. The OEP’s blog post explained some of the criticism of this report and warns readers to be cautiously skeptical!
  • Finally, in September 2013, Mathematica Policy Research publismathematicahed a randomized evaluation which finds that alternative-trained teachers prove effective in secondary math. Read more at our OEP blog post.

Where do we go from here?

On a national level, Teach for America (established in 1990) is a controversial program, so it is not surprising that Arkansas Teacher Corps, as a spin-off of TFA, would receive similar treatment by some. Program evaluations and data about alternative teacher certification programs, including ATC, will continue to emerge and will help determine the future of teacher preparation. We at the OEP feel that COEHP does an excellent job of supplying teachers for Northwest Arkansas and other parts of the state, but clearly there remains a need in other AR districts. We are glad that ATC is here to meet that need.

In conclusion, we at the OEP look forward to the discussions and findings to come, which will hopefully result in the outcomes best for Arkansas students: quality teacher preparation, effective teachers, and high teacher retention rates.

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