A three year $10 million grant to the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville by the Walton Family Foundation is funding new teacher training for schools in high poverty areas.
Between 150-200 teachers will receive training through the new Arkansas Academy of Educational Equity for the next three years. The pilot project will begin recruitment in the spring.
Initially, the program will be limited to a few school districts in the state which are partnering with the University of Arkansas. The program enables teachers for schools in high poverty areas to work toward a master’s degree and have tuition paid.
According Gary Ritter, a UA faculty member who co-wrote the proposal with education professor Tom Smith, the idea is the result of over two years of meetings with faculty members, public school leaders, and funders.
“When folks got around the table and discussed all the challenges in low-income schools, we came to the conclusion that teachers taking on roles in these schools need to have unique training,” Ritter said. “It’s a qualitatively different task to be a high-quality, high-expectations teacher in an economically disadvantaged school than it is to be a teacher in a middle-class school.”
UA research data shows that there is a significant challenge when it comes to attracting teachers to positions in high poverty schools.
“In the least poor districts in the state, they get 7.5 applicants for every vacancy. In the most poor, they get 2.5,” Ritter said, adding that focus groups suggest teachers leave because of a lack of support. “So what we’re hoping is that the support we’re giving them early in their career would encourage them to stay longer.”