Walton Family Foundation Grant to Expand and Strengthen Arkansas Teacher Corps Program

ATC Fellow Freda Calloway
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ATC Fellow Freda Calloway

The Arkansas Teacher Corps partners with school districts to recruit, train, license and support committed Arkansans as empowered teachers facilitating excellent, equitable education in the state.

The program, a partnership between the U of A College of Education and Health Professions, Walton Family Foundation, Arkansas Department of Education and participating Arkansas K-12 school districts, provides an accelerated path to teaching at a time when many Arkansas schools are facing severe teacher shortages.

The Arkansas Teacher Corps recently received a $3.6 million Walton Family Foundation grant that will help expand and strengthen the program. The grant will support 105 new teaching fellows through 2025, an 84% increase over the 57 fellows that the Arkansas Teacher Corps has supported for the past three years.

"The grant provides us an opportunity to have an even greater impact by expanding our partnerships to new school districts throughout eastern and southern Arkansas," said Brandon Lucius, executive director of the Arkansas Teacher Corps. "We'll also be able to provide additional support and development for teaching fellows, including rigorous content knowledge and pedagogical training and wraparound support for fellows' social and emotional wellbeing."

The Arkansas Teacher Corps launched in 2013 with an inaugural cohort of 21 fellows teaching in nine school districts and 13 schools. Since then, the three-year program has recruited, trained and supported 10 cohorts of more than 200 teachers in 81 schools and 37 school districts throughout central, eastern and southern Arkansas.

Applicants are required to have a four-year degree, but it can be in any major.

In the 2022-23 school year, ATC is supporting 60 fellows in 31 schools and 16 school districts across Arkansas. Seventy-nine percent of ATC fellows identify as a racial or ethnic minority, 54% are first-generation college students and 83% are from low-income communities. Seventy-six percent of fellows recruited in 2022 are hometown applicants who are originally from the community or were already working in the school where they now teach.

Freda Calloway, part of the 2020 ATC cohort, teaches English Language Arts (ELA) at McGehee High School in the Arkansas Delta. "I grew up in poverty. I barely graduated from high school. However, I became a first-generation college graduate, earning my associate's and bachelor's degrees from the University of Arkansas at Monticello and not one, but two, masters' degrees from Webster University," she said.

She applied to the Arkansas Teacher Corps program because she wanted a pathway to becoming a licensed educator without returning to college. Not to mention the other benefits: on-the-job training as a full-time, paid teacher with an ATC partner district; a standard five-year teaching license upon program completion; and a $5,000 stipend.

Calloway said the program's coaching and support is extensive. All new cohorts begin with a seven-week Summer Institute that allows them to gain hands-on teaching experience before entering the classroom as a teaching fellow.

"During the Summer Institute — and throughout the program — I learned how to create effective lesson plans, classroom management and teaching strategies," Calloway said, noting that the program provides fellows with an experienced teacher coach, monthly workshops, bi-monthly weekend professional development events throughout the school year and peer teaching support groups throughout the program.

"My current coach is a highly qualified teacher with more than seven years of experience," she said. "She was a 2015 ATC fellow. She was also named Teacher of the Year for her school district while she was in the program. She is knowledgeable and gives me valuable feedback after conducting classroom observations."

Fellows also have access to study tools such as 240 Tutoring and Study.com subscriptions to help prepare for licensure testing. The program also opens doors to opportunities for individual growth and learning, Calloway said.

"I became a certified yoga teacher and social-emotional learning facilitator through an opportunity provided by ATC. I also became a Mental Health Changemaker Fellow through another program because of an opportunity that ATC shared with current fellows and alums," she said. "I have used the knowledge and tools with my students to assist them with their focus and stress management, thus helping them become better learners."

So far, 77 ATC fellows have successfully completed the program and earned a standard five-year teaching license in one or more content areas, resulting in over 150 total certifications. Of the alumni who have successfully completed the fellowships, 78% were still teaching and leading in Arkansas public schools a year later (four years of teaching total), and 59% were still teaching in Arkansas schools five years later (eight years of teaching total).

Statistical analysis of ACT Aspire data from spring 2019 found that students of ATC fellows grow up to seven percentile points higher in English and reading and were 10% more likely to meet the readiness benchmark in science than their peers with non-ATC teachers. 

During the 2021-22 school year, students of ATC fellows reported the highest satisfaction with their teachers' instruction, and analysis of their survey responses show statistically significant increases in social-emotional skills like grit, self-efficacy and emotional regulation.

"Thanks to the program, I am fulfilling my life's purpose as an educator," Calloway said. "I honestly feel as if I'm the teacher I needed when I was in school — firm, but caring. I am always concerned about the things that go on with my students in and out of the classroom."

Contacts

Shannon G. Magsam, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions
479-575-3138, magsam@uark.edu

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