The Arkansas Teacher Corps program will nearly double with the aid of a Walton Family Foundation grant.
The $3.6 million grant will support 105 new teaching fellows through 2025, an 84% increase over the 57 fellows that the Arkansas Teacher Corps has supported for the past three years, according to the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
The Arkansas Teacher Corps -- a partnership between UA-Fayetteville's College of Education and Health Professions, the Walton Family Foundation, the Arkansas Department of Education and participating Arkansas K-12 school districts -- provides an accelerated path to teaching at a time when many schools are contending with teacher shortages.
"A crucial mission of the College of Education and Health Professions is to help address complex education and health challenges in the state, [and] the teacher shortage is definitely one of those challenges, which is why programs like ATC are so important, " said Dean Kate Mamiseishvili. "Each fellow receives essential development and coaching, which, in turn, affects every student they teach, [and] we are so proud of this program's impact across Arkansas."
Highly effective teachers are paramount to student success, and "we are always happy to support innovative programs, such as the Arkansas Teacher Corps, that focus on recruiting exceptional teachers into the classroom," said Kimberly Mundell, director of communications for the Arkansas Department of Education. "When we employ the best and brightest teachers and improve access to a quality education, every student wins."
The Arkansas Teacher Corps -- applicants need a four-year degree, but it can be in any major -- launched in 2013 with an inaugural cohort of 21 fellows teaching in nine school districts and 13 schools, according to UA-Fayetteville. Since then, the three-year program has recruited, trained and supported 10 cohorts of more than 200 teachers in 81 schools and 37 school districts throughout central, east and south Arkansas.
This latest "grant provides us an opportunity to have an even greater impact by expanding our partnerships to new school districts throughout eastern and southern Arkansas," Brandon Lucius, the Arkansas Teacher Corps' executive director, said in a news release. "We'll also be able to provide additional support and development for teaching fellows, including rigorous content knowledge and pedagogical training, and wrap-around support for fellows' social and emotional well-being."
Participants receive on-the-job training as full-time, paid teachers with partner school districts, a standard five-year teaching license upon program completion, and a $5,000 stipend, among other benefits, according to the university. Fellows also have access to study tools such as 240 Tutoring and Study.com subscriptions to help prepare for licensure testing.
"The partnerships between ATC and school districts develop and retain high-quality teachers, while informing policies about the Arkansas teacher workforce," said Sarah McKenzie, executive director of the Office for Education Policy at UA-Fayetteville, an assistant research professor, and faculty director of the Arkansas Teacher Corps. "The support from the Walton Family Foundation provided the Department of Education Reform the opportunity to generate research-based insights about teacher development while meeting urgent needs of schools and students."
Nearly 80% of fellows identify as a racial or ethnic minority, more than half are first-generation college students, and more than 80% are from low-income communities, according to UA-Fayetteville. In addition, two-thirds of fellows recruited in 2022 -- this school year, the program is supporting 60 fellows in 31 schools and 16 school districts across Arkansas -- are hometown applicants who are originally from the community or were already working in the school where they now teach.
Thus far, 77 fellows have successfully completed this program and earned a standard five-year teaching license in one or more content areas, resulting in 150-plus total certifications, according to UA-Fayetteville. Of the alumni who have successfully completed the fellowships, 78% were still teaching and leading in Arkansas public schools a year later (four years of teaching total), and 59% were still teaching in Arkansas schools five years later (eight years of teaching total).