Improving the Teacher Pipeline is also one of our seven Vision Report Key Focus Areas. Our aspiration is that all Arkansas schools, especially those in high-need areas, have access to talented educators who have been rigorously prepared. We must attract, prepare and develop these teachers.
One study from the National Bureau of Economic Research indicates that teacher quality alone could account for anywhere between seven and 20 percent of the variation in student achievement, while another from EducationNext suggests that simply replacing the least effective five to 10 percent of U.S. teachers with just an average-performing counterpart would lead U.S. schools to rise to the top of international rankings.
One of the best ways to attract quality teachers is to remove any barriers to their education and licensure. As such, we’re proud to support the 2017 legislation (HB 1425) that opens up alternative educator pathways for teacher licensure. This legislation also authorizes districts to provide increased salaries based on a tiered licensure system, supporting our recommendation to narrow the gap in teacher pay across the state.
In addition to attracting quality teachers, it’s also important that they have room for promotion. We’re proud of the Arkansas Department of Education’s new “Educator Career Continuum” set to begin in the 2018-19 school year, providing teachers opportunities to grow into new roles without leaving teaching. As an educator moves along the continuum, the opportunities for professional growth and learning increase, and accomplishments are better recognized. Opportunities like this for our teachers will make the profession more attractive for our future workforce.
As indicated, we’re also proud to also see the Department step up in its state plan to incorporate some leadership requirements that will benefit all schools. The first is continuing to refine and integrate opportunities from the existing work of the Teacher Excellence and Support System (TESS) and the Leader Excellence and Development System (LEADS) by helping districts offer integrated and aligned professional development. The second is creating statewide networks of experienced school leader mentors to work with schools in need of additional leadership assistance.
We’re happy to also see several of our other recommendations currently in progress, including the expansion of programs that encourage high school students to pursue a teaching career (Teacher Cadets) and tracking the success of educator prep programs by gauging student learning. Additionally, we continue to be an advocate for attracting top talent to teach in high-need subjects, and recently announced a scholarship program in partnership with UAteach, a secondary math and science teacher preparation program. Scholarship recipients must commit to teaching in a school district within one of our five ForwARd Communities.