Strengthen the Educator Pipeline
Investing in the recruitment, retention and professional development of teachers and administrators can drive a culture of innovation and academic excellence
With more Arkansas educators reaching retirement age, it is imperative to cultivate a strong pipeline of teachers and administrators with the skills and commitment to lead our schools and drive a culture of innovation and academic excellence. We must tackle this with a recognition of the realities facing many of our communities, where investment in educators has been a financial challenge.
Attracting and Retaining Quality Teachers and School Leaders
Not only are we seeing a generation of educators approaching retirement, the average teacher stays in the education field for a much shorter time than their predecessors.
In many Arkansas communities, teacher pay has not kept up with cost-of-living increases, and a career that was once seen as a solid path to the middle class now leaves those pursuing a life as a teacher feeling a pinch in their pocketbooks.
On top of financial considerations, educators are being asked to take on roles in addition to classroom instruction with limited support.
Challenges in the pipeline for teachers have been mirrored by challenges in developing strong school leaders. Great teachers with leadership potential may leave the classroom to take on administrative roles. In many of Arkansas’ smaller communities, it is difficult to identify individuals who can serve effectively as administrators and often, it is equally difficult to assemble highly-effective school boards.
What Educator Preparation Means Today
Institutions of higher education have done well to focus on developing academic skills in their graduates, but many teachers arrive at their first jobs unprepared to adequately handle discipline problems or other challenges presented in the classroom that are unrelated to curriculum. More opportunities for professional development are needed to fill these gaps.
ForwARd is working closely with the Arkansas Department of Education to create opportunities for leadership among classroom teachers, which was a primary goal of the agency’s recent updates to teacher licensure rules.
Additionally, we have supported local “grow your own” efforts, including in our ForwARd Communities, to inspire the next generation of educators. Through this work, we are also building close relationships with Arkansas’ institutions of higher education in order to better inform their educator preparation programs and practices.
In the months and years ahead, we must increase the leadership capacity within our state’s schools and communities. One thing that all successful schools have in common is strong leadership that can set a vision for educational achievement and support teachers in making that vision a reality.
We must also focus our efforts to better understand the challenges facing students and provide educators with training to help them deal effectively with those challenges.
Beginning in the fall of 2018, ForwARd will convene a Policy Collaborative of educators, policy-makers, civic and business leaders from across Arkansas in a coordinated effort to develop and advance common-sense policy recommendations focused on the educator pipeline in an effort to enhance educational outcomes throughout the state.