Walton, Rockefeller Nonprofit Works with 8 Arkansas College to Recruit, Retain K-12 Teachers

Arkansas Money & Politics
November 29, 2021

Eight Arkansas universities will participate in a Forward Arkansas program designed to help transform K-12 teacher recruitment, training and retention in the state.

Forward Arkansas is a nonprofit organization that works with key stakeholders statewide to establish a shared vision for education in Arkansas. The organization partners with state and district leaders, educators and communities to lead Arkansas toward a future education system that is equitable, student-centered and prepares students for success. Forward Arkansas is a was established in 2014 with grants from the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and Walton Family Foundation with the goal of improving outcomes for students.

Arkansas State University, Arkansas Tech University, Harding University, Southern Arkansas University, the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, University of Arkansas at Little Rock and University of Central Arkansas will each receive $100,000 grants as part of the nonprofit’s Educator Preparation Program (EPP) Design Collaborative.

“We want to support and champion Arkansas institutions that have the bold ideas and committed leadership needed to transform our state’s teacher pipeline,” said Ben Kutylo, Forward Arkansas’s executive director. “Through the collaborative, we aim to help Arkansas recruit more qualified teachers, better prepare educators for the challenges of the classroom and improve overall teacher retention rates.”

Forward selected the universities through a competitive statewide process. It sought a cohort of institutions of varying sizes and locations. It also looked for universities with proven commitments to increasing teacher diversity and track records of placing educators in high-need locations.

Forward’s Collaborative will also include the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB). This spring, UAPB began its EPP transformation efforts with a grant from Alice Walton, through the Walton Family Foundation. As a participant in Forward’s cohort, UAPB will join the broader state-wide initiative and lend insights it has developed to other participating universities.

Forward initially intended to partner with six universities but, due to high interest, it expanded its EPP Design Collaborative to include eight institutions. The universities will receive design and technical assistance from Forward and its partners to develop a “transformation plan” that captures their vision for change and aligns with the Arkansas Department of Education’s future direction for educator preparation. In the summer of 2022, a select number of institutions will have the opportunity to pursue additional funding for implementation.