University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Education Committees Hear Staffing Study Report

In AR Legislature on April 13, 2016 at 12:52 pm

The House and Senate education committees met jointly yesterday and heard reports on teacher salaries and recruitment/retention issues. Salary studies are conducted routinely as a required part of the state’s ongoing adequacy study, but this is the first in-depth look at teacher recruitment and retention. Here is a recap of several key findings.

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Teacher Recruitment and Retention

To say Arkansas has a teacher shortage isn’t really accurate. A study by the Bureau of Legislative Research indicates that we probably have plenty of teachers, but not necessarily in the geographic or content areas they are needed most. Or, they aren’t teaching at all. According to this report based on several data sources:

  • Of the state’s 57,940 licensed teachers, only 33,104 were employed as teachers.
  • Content-wise, we can expect critical teacher shortages in up to 10 areas, ranging from foreign languages and library media to computer and physical sciences. ADE and districts work to address these shortages with waivers and “non-traditional” licensure, but turnover is higher for teachers in both situations.
  • Significantly fewer college students are pursuing teaching as a profession; enrollment is down by 50% since 2010. Worse, not enough of those students are preparing to teach in the content shortage areas, and the number of students preparing for non-shortage areas exceeds the available positions.
  • High-minority schools have about twice the rate of teacher turnover as low-minority schools, but high-poverty and low-poverty schools have about the same rates of turnover.
  • About 36% of Arkansas teachers leave the profession after five or fewer years, though this is lower than the national average.
  • Administrators cited compensation and credentials as their greatest challenges in recruiting and retaining teachers. Teachers mentioned compensation and the non-classroom administrative burden as obstacles to retention, though most of those surveyed were planning to stay in the profession.

The education committees meet again on Friday, May 6. The legislature’s fiscal session starts today.

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