General Teacher Preparation Policy
The state should require teacher preparation programs to admit only candidates with strong academic records and support programs to encourage greater numbers of qualified individuals of color to become teachers. This goal was ungraded in 2020.
GPA/Testing Requirement: Arkansas does not ensure that teacher preparation programs admit only candidates with strong academic backgrounds. The state does not require a minimum GPA for admission to teacher preparation programs.
Arkansas does not require aspiring teachers to pass a test of academic proficiency at the time of admission.
Additional Requirements: Arkansas requires all teacher preparation programs housed in institutions of higher education to obtain CAEP accreditation. Although meeting CAEP accreditation standards ensures a certain degree of proficiency, CAEP delays verification of a student's academic ability until graduation, rather than at the time of admission.
Diversity Programs: The state's Teach Arkansas Campaign strives to "Increase the number of minority teachers in public schools by 25 percent in 5 years." The state also requires preparation programs to provide a list of minority students who have completed licensure programs and, with the licensees consent, include their contact information in a central database. This database is made available to "every public school superintendent in this state or other official designated by the superintendent for the purpose of recruiting faculty and staff." Additionally, each school district with more than 5% African American or minority students must develop a recruitment plan to, "establish a minority teacher and administrator goal at least equal to the percentage of minority students of the school districts." The recruitment plans must include:
Rules Governing Educator Licensure http://www.arkansased.gov/public/userfiles/Legal/Legal-Current%20Rules/2018/Educator_Licensure_Final_10-29-18.pdf Protocol for the Review and Approval of Programs of Study Leading to Educator Licensure or Endorsement in Arkansas http://www.arkansased.gov/public/userfiles/Educator_Effectiveness/Becoming_a_Teacher_or_School_Leader/Protocols_for_IHEs_12.27.18.pdf www.ets.org/praxis/ar/requirements Teach Arkansas Campaign http://dese.ade.arkansas.gov/divisions/educator%20effectiveness/teach-arkansas Arkansas Code Annotated 6-17-1901 and 6-61-124 Minority Teacher and Administrator Recruitment Memo, August 9, 2019 http://adecm.arkansas.gov/ViewApprovedMemo.aspx?Id=4105
Require that teacher preparation programs screen candidates for academic proficiency prior to admission.
Teacher preparation programs that do not screen candidates invest considerable resources in individuals who may not be able to successfully complete the program, pass licensing tests, and ultimately succeed in the classroom. Candidates in need of additional support should complete remediation before entering the program to avoid the possibility of an unsuccessful investment of significant public resources. Arkansas should require candidates to pass a test of academic proficiency that assesses reading, mathematics, and writing prior to program admission that is normed to the general college-going population. Alternatively, the state could require a minimum grade point average of at least 3.0 for individuals or 3.2 for cohorts of accepted candidates in order to establish that prospective teachers have a strong academic history.
Consider requiring candidates to pass subject-matter tests as a condition of admission into teacher programs.
In addition to ensuring that programs require a measure of academic performance for admission, Arkansas may also consider requiring subject-matter testing prior to program admission, rather than at the point of program completion. Doing so would provide candidates lacking sufficient subject-matter expertise with an opportunity to remedy deficits prior to entering formal preparation
Arkansas was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts necessary for this analysis. The state also indicated that in order to meet CAEP standard 3.2, Arkansas educator preparation programs must provide evidence that they have admission standards that indicate candidates have high academic achievement and ability. With regards to diversity, Arkansas indicated that the CAEP cross cutting theme of diversity requires aspects of diversity be embedded across all five CAEP standards. Aspects of learning include, "extending across learning disabilities, language learners, gifted students and students from divers racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds."
Arkansas also indicated that first year analysis of data from the Teach Arkansas Campaign showed the number of minority teachers increased by 12.64%. Additionally, a goal of Recruitment and Retention Specialists in all ESCs across the state, is to increase the number of non-white teachers in Arkansas public schools. According to the state, these specialists, along with recruitment and retention advisors at DESE, work to offer 'Become an Arkansas Teacher' events and participate in career fairs across the state with a focus to recruit non-white educators.
Evidence is strong that countries whose students consistently outperform U.S. students set a much higher bar for entry to teacher preparation programs than what is typically found in the United States. Far from the top third or even top tenth to which more selective countries limit candidates, most states do not even aim for the top 50 percent. Previous analysis has shown that many states do not require that preparation programs evaluate candidates' academic proficiency as a condition of admission to teacher preparation at all; most others set a low bar by requiring basic skills tests that generally assess middle school-level skills or by requiring a minimum GPA, but too few demand at least a 3.0.
In addition to the low skill level tested by current basic skills tests (e.g., the Praxis Core), another concern is that they are normed only to the prospective teacher population, which does not allow for comparability between prospective teachers and the entire college-bound population. Tests normed to the general college-bound population would shine a clearer light on the academic proficiency of those admitted to teacher preparation programs and allow programs to be truly selective.
While a positive start, CAEP standards are no substitute for states' own policies. CAEP's standards require that the group average performance on nationally normed ability assessments such as ACT, SAT, or GRE be in the top 50th percentile. However, CAEP allows programs the unnecessary freedom to determine whether the minimum criteria will be measured prior to admissions or at some point during the program. Clear state admission policies would send an unequivocal message to programs about the state's expectations for high admissions standards.
Research is clear about the positive effects of teachers with stronger academic backgrounds on student achievement. Higher teacher selectivity, as measured by factors such as SAT/ACT scores, GPA prior to program admission, and an institute of higher education's (IHE) general competitiveness or selectivity, has a significant, positive correlation with student achievement. Some studies support higher academic admissions standards for entry into TPPs, including studies showing a relationship between student achievement and teachers' verbal ability or selectivity of the teachers' college. Although research supports applying greater selectivity when admitting teacher candidates, some recent work has found no correlation between teachers' scores on tests normed to the general college-bound population (e.g., SAT, ACT) or IHE selectivity and student achievement.
States should support increased diversity in the teacher pipeline, in addition to maintaining high admissions standards for teacher preparation programs. Recent data show that 49 percent of students in the US were students of color, while only 17 percent of teachers were teachers of color. Twenty-eight states had gaps between the percentage of students and educators of color that were greater than 25 percentage points. A growing body of research suggests that students of color—students who often face the largest achievement gaps—benefit from having same-race teachers. Exposure to same-race teachers positively benefits student achievement, teachers' expectations and perceptions of students, teachers' assessments and perceptions of student behavior, students' rates of suspension and expulsion, students' assignment to Gifted and Talented programs, and students' perceptions of teachers. Some research suggests that teachers of the same race as their students are more likely to reduce high-school dropout rates as well as increase student attendance and college attendance intent, and improve discipline. Moreover, white students report that they favor teachers of color.