While Arkansas is serving many children in early childhood programs that have been highly rated, too few children and families have access to early care and education, and many children are not entering kindergarten ready to learn. To achieve Arkansas’s early learning goals, the state must create a unified early childhood system.
The LEARNS Act puts Arkansas on track to do this. The Act calls for the state to build on the good work of its early childhood programs, to date, by unifying programs and funding under the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE). As Arkansas implements this legislation, ADE commits to:
- Partner with those closest to children and classrooms: Create a system of strong state-local partnerships to improve access to quality early care and education options in all communities in Arkansas.
- Know how many kids already have a seat: Collect an accurate count of all children served by publicly funded early care and education in partnership with local leads to provide leaders with information to guide decision making.
- Define excellence: Establish a single vision for quality early care and education that is tied to kindergarten readiness and drives improvement for all sites, in partnership with local leads.
Every child in Arkansas is capable of reading and writing proficiently, but today according to the 2022 ACT Aspire, only 35% of students are reading at grade level. To change this, Arkansas is overhauling literacy instruction by embracing strong research that explains how students best learn to read and write.
The LEARNS Act builds on Arkansas’s previous literacy work and seeks to ensure all K-3 students are on track to reading proficiency by implementing evidence-based strategies known to improve the quality of instruction and student outcomes. As Arkansas implements this legislation, the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) commits to:
- Equip every K-3 classroom with materials aligned to the Science of Reading: Reach 100% adoption of high-quality instructional materials (HQIM) aligned to the Science of Reading in all districts.
- Provide teachers with HQIM training: Identify an Arkansas marketplace of strong and curriculum-specific professional partners to provide high-quality training aligned to the new materials for every teacher.
- Deploy coaches to targeted schools: Recruit, train, and onboard at least 120 literacy specialists to provide direct coaching and professional learning to all K-3 teachers in D and F schools. Focus all current and new literacy specialists on direct coaching.
- Simplify the literacy screening process: Identify or develop a single high-quality literacy screener for K-3 students and craft guidance to help teachers interpret results, drive instructional decisions, and support students who do not meet the reading standard.
- Empower families to support early literacy at home: Develop guidance and resources for districts to implement individualized reading plans and read-at-home plans for K-3 students who do not meet the reading standard.
- Ensure every teaching candidate is trained on the Science of Reading: Support educator preparation programs to graduate teachers prepared to use high-quality K-3 HQIM grounded in the science of reading to provide evidence-based instruction.
Every teacher in Arkansas needs high-quality standards aligned instructional materials (HQIM) in their classrooms to ensure all students receive rigorous, grade-level learning. Arkansas must ensure every K-12 teacher in ELA/Literacy and Mathematics has a best-in-class curriculum, as well as aligned training and ongoing support.
To do this, the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) commits to:
- Make it easy for districts to adopt HQIM: Leverage incentive funding, publish district curriculum adoption decisions, and provide ongoing technical assistance to districts to make it easy for every Arkansas school to adopt HQIM across all grade levels in ELA/Literacy and Mathematics.
- Provide teachers with HQIM training: Identify an Arkansas marketplace of strong and curriculum-specific professional partners to provide high-quality training aligned to the new materials for every teacher based on evidence and the Science of Reading.
- Make high-quality literacy and numeracy intervention accessible for all:Identify barriers, propose specific solutions, and incentivize districts and schools to implement those solutions so all students who persistently struggle receive high-quality literacy and numeracy intervention supports and services tailored to their individual needs.
All Arkansas students should have access to high-quality educational choice opportunities, and the state’s public charter schools are a key piece of the puzzle. Arkansas aims to align state policy and processes to national best practices in order to recruit, retain, and expand the best charter operators in America. Specifically, the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) commits to:
- Streamline charter application processes: Create a more transparent charter approval and renewal process.
- Improve charter policies: Work with the State Board of Education to revise charter policy to codify a more transparent application process, tie charter renewal and expansion decisions to performance criteria, and remove barriers for high-quality, out-of-state charter operators to open in Arkansas.
The power of K-12 accountability systems comes from their ability to ensure everyone—educators, families, community stakeholders, policymakers—is aligned on what excellence is, what it takes to achieve it, and whether each school and district is reaching it. Arkansas is committed to a school and district accountability system that ensures rigorous academic outcomes, annual student progress, and workforce preparedness, while maintaining reasonable flexibility from over-burdensome requirements.
To deliver a school and district accountability system that meets these expectations as Arkansas implements the LEARNS Act, the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) commits to:
- Strengthen the system that measures how schools and districts are performing: Ensure the accountability system signals excellence aligned to LEARNS, integrates learning in kindergarten through postsecondary, and produces results that drive improvement and transparency by launching and facilitating a three-phase timeline to implement an updated accountability system, if desired by stakeholders and the legislature, by the 2024-2025 school year.
As part of the review of the K-12 accountability system, the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) commits to transparency for parents. School and district report cards can elevate the information families care about most while continuing to allow for deeper data exploration. In particular, the state could make public each district’s curricular choices, as currently only one-third of districts make this information available online.
Arkansas has established a vision for and a plan to build an attractive, competitive education profession that is anchored in student growth. The LEARNS Act, complemented by the LEARNS Executive Order, ensures that, from teachers’ first exposure to the profession— in an educator preparation program that includes a one-year residency with a skilled mentor—to recruitment into a competitively compensated teaching role and through meaningful career advancement opportunities, Arkansas is building a profession that will attract and retain talented, committed teachers who ensure student growth and grow into leadership roles.
Recent legislation also ensures the legal and regulatory framework governing Arkansas’s educator workforce is structured around fair, student-centered decisions and tools. These laws and policies require the use of data to strengthen the profession at all levels, including data to identify high-demand certification areas and schools; data to characterize educator success, including for local superintendents; and data to inform compensation, advancement, and other significant personnel decisions.
This report makes key commitments that will ensure this vision becomes a reality, including commitments and detailed strategies. Specifically, the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) commits to:
- Ensure every teacher candidate has a year in the classroom with a mentor: Ensure all of Arkansas’s teacher candidates complete a one-year teaching residency alongside a skilled mentor by 2027.
- Waive initial licensing fees for first-time teachers: Recommend the State Board of Education waive first-time licensing fees from May 1 to August 31, 2023.
- Increase licensing transparency and efficiency: Save time and money by making teacher certification processes more efficient and transparent.
- Update workforce management provisions: Support local school boards and school districts as they update workforce management policies and practices.
The above commitments build on Arkansas’s pioneering LEARNS legislation and history of innovation to realize the promise of the nation’s strongest teaching profession.
SummaryThe Arkansas Department of Education: Division of Elementary and Secondary Education launched the new website on Pathways to Licensure (Alternate). Other aspects of the Educator Effectiveness and Licensure section were revamped as well during the process.
Licensure Pathways for Individuals with a Bachelor’s Degree or Higher (Alternative Pathways to Licensure). These pathways often allow you to work as teacher of record in a school district while meeting licensure requirements. Below listed are the Alternative Route to learn more information:
- American Board
- Arkansas Teacher Corps
- eStem Residency
- Highly Qualified Professor
- Teach for America
- Master’s Degree leading to a first-time license (MAT, MEd, MTLL)
Licensure Pathways for Individuals without a Bachelor’s Degree (Traditional Pathways to Licensure). Note: If you do not have a bachelor’s degree but have experience in a career or technical area and are interested in teaching that area, you may be eligible for a Technical Permit(see below).
Colleges and Universities offering full traditional pathways to licensure
- IHEs with approved EPPs and licensure area(s) offered
Community Colleges (two-year colleges) that offer a pathway to an Educator Preparation Program
- List of 2 year IHEs with education degree (on AR future list) and licensure level it will prepare someone for
Arkansas Teacher Residency Model-this model provides a work-based pathway to an educators license for individuals without a bachelor’s degree. Participants meet educator preparation program requirements while gaining valuable on the job experience at an Arkansas school district, all under the direction of a Lead or Master designated teacher.
- Certified Teaching Assistant (CTA)- The Certified Teaching Assistant (CTA) credential is the gateway into the Arkansas Teacher Residency Model. This can be earned as early as high school.
- Learn more about CTA requirements
- Apply for the CTA
- Apprenticeship-Now, school districts and institutions of higher education (IHEs) who are working together to implement the Arkansas Teacher Residency model can take advantage of funding awarded to registered apprenticeships to support this important work. This funding can be used for college tuition for residents, as well as to provide stipends to the Lead or Master professional educator who serves as the journeyman for the resident.
- Information for districts, co-ops, and IHEs on how to offer a nationally recognized apprenticeship program
- Check here for apprenticeship job openings
- Want to earn teacher licensure through ATR? Check and see if your college/university and/or your district are committed to offering the model and reach out directly to them to start personalizing your pathway.
- Committed IHEs (with contact info)
- Committed districts (with contact info)
Pathways for Individuals with Experience in a Career and Technical Field (Technical Permit) These permits are for professionals leaving industry and entering the education field.
SummaryArkansas is a national leader in school bandwidth since 2018. 100% of Arkansas’ school districts have Internet connections that can deliver 1 Mbps per student. The current Arkansas Public School Computer Network (APSCN) now has the capacity to provide internet service at a rate of 1 Megabit per second (1 Mbps) per user to almost 100 percent of all public schools in the state. The 1 Mbps/student speed allows browsing, online testing, heavy video collaboration, heavy streamy video, online educational gaming, remote instruction -- all possible seamlessly.
Arkansas is a national leader in school bandwidth.
In 2014, the Arkansas Public School Computer Network (APSCN), once a state-of-the-art K-12 broadband vehicle, had fallen behind the times. The network was still relying on outdated copper technology to provide a majority of its connections to schools and was only capable of providing an insufficient 5 kbps per student across the state.
Schools in Arkansas that hoped to utilize classroom technology were forced to procure additional services on their own to provide the required bandwidth, while schools that could not afford to buy more on their own were left behind. When previous Governor Asa Hutchinson took office in 2015, he immediately recognized the need to provide sufficient and equitable access to all of the schools in the state. Governor Hutchinson had campaigned on offering computer science courses to all high school students in the state, a promise that could not be delivered without strong technology infrastructure. Additionally, traditional textbooks were fast becoming outdated as students were being issued tablets and laptops instead of paper materials. To support this changing landscape, Governor Hutchinson directed Arkansas’ Department of Information Services and the Arkansas Department of Education to upgrade the APSCN network during his first month in office.
Based on the FCC goals and common practice in the field, we see the following bandwidth profiles based on technology use.
After giving some consideration to reaching the FCC’s short-term goal of 100 kbps per student, Arkansas decided to be bolder with its intentions: it committed to delivering twice as much bandwidth to every student in the state, or a 40x increase in the network’s previous capabilities. A coalition of 21 service providers in the state answered the call when the network was bid out, and the final outcome exceeded expectations once again: all of the old copper connections were replaced with fiber, and today close to 100% of Arkansas’ school districts have Internet connections that can deliver 1 Mbps per student. Impressively, this massive expansion of bandwidth capabilities was achieved with only a 7% increase in state funding, while school districts that had previously been purchasing their own bandwidth outside of the APSCN network no longer needed to incur these costs.
The new APSCN network has allowed schools across the state to move toward 1:1 program. Educators in Arkansas are now taking advantage of teaching and learning resources in the cloud, which is, in turn, driving more bandwidth utilization on the network, forming a virtuous circle relationship between bandwidth demand and technology adoption. And, of course, thanks to the robust new APSCN network and legislation passed by the state, Governor’s Office has made good on his promise to bring computer science education to every high school in Arkansas. For the School Year 2023-2024, APSCN is aiming (setting a target goal) for 2 Mbps per student broadband speed.
2022 Arkansas State Overview Profile from Connect K-12 platform, powered by Connected Nation: https://connectk12.org/states/AR
Every student and educator in Arkansas deserves a safe learning environment.
To do this, the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) commits to:
- Distribute funds for improvements in safety measures: Continue to oversee the implementation of the $50 million of grant funding to provide resources for districts as they implement ADE’s safety priorities.
- Expand new Safe Schools Unit to support districts: Expand the new Safe Schools Unit to provide direct support to districts as they put into place new procedures. This unit will be instrumental in providing direct support, professional learning, monitoring, and direction regarding school safety.
- Develop best-practice crisis response plans: Develop a statewide crisis response plan that identifies the roles and responsibilities of each actor (state and local partners) in time of a crisis and support districts to create a local crisis response plans