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Project: Increasing Access to Effective Educators in Arkansas

The Region 14 Comprehensive Center is supporting the Arkansas Department of Education with the alignment of its programs in a talent development system and strengthening the metrics for evaluating impact. This will ultimately provide educators with more opportunities to grow, leading to a more robust workforce and increased access to effective educators.  


The Need

Data from 2021 shows that many Arkansas school districts are facing extreme teacher shortages, resulting in classrooms staffed with unqualified and often uncertified teachers. Statewide, 4 percent of public school teachers are uncertified, which is double the national average of 1.7 percent. Furthermore, 3 percent of public school teachers are teaching out-of-field. In 30 Arkansas school districts, at least 10 percent of the teacher workforce is uncertified—and in 7 of those districts, over 30 percent of teachers are uncertified.

The Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) Division of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (DESE) Office of Educator Effectiveness (OEE) are analyzing the state’s workforce to address the pressing need for qualified and effective teachers.  


Our Approach 

Reimagining Talent Management Systems

ADE, in partnership with the Region 14 Comprehensive Center (R14CC), is redesigning its talent management system. The approach is rooted in data-driven decision making that effectively engages parties at every level to help support both current and future educators. R14CC facilitated discussions that centered on the existing and desired conditions to identify which programs and initiatives will be the focus of realignment efforts.  




Aligning Strategic Goals

ADE focused on its Teach Arkansas campaign as the backbone of its continuous improvement efforts. Teach Arkansas is an initiative that provides support and direction for current and future educators through various programs tailored to the multiple pathways to licensure available in the state. R14CC supported ADE in revising and strengthening its Teach Arkansas Goals to align with DESE’s comprehensive strategic goals. R14CC analyzed ADE data to develop corresponding progress metrics that are directly mapped to the talent management system.


Workforce Stability Index

ADE’s Workforce Stability Index (WSI) is used to help inform districts’ recruitment, assignment, development, and retention decisions that will ensure students have equitable access to a high-quality teacher workforce. R14CC analyzed the data used to create the WSI and recommended variables for inclusion that positively relate to workforce quality: Experience, Attainment, Licensure, and Retention.

As a result of this extensive partnership focused on the WSI, OEE staff are confident in their data literacy and ability to have informed discussions at the district and legislative levels. They can articulate what school and district-level data is being collected statewide, where that data is housed, and which data quality issues may hamper their assessment abilities. ADE is working to improve its reporting data quality department-wide and is now better equipped with the tools to hone in on the areas requiring attention.


Educator Career Continuum

As part of ADE’s Teach Arkansas initiative, the Educator Career Continuum provides teachers with pathways that create opportunities for professional growth and transformational leadership while remaining in the classroom—where they impact student achievement most. Districts can use the Educator Career Continuum to compensate educators with Lead Teacher or Master Teacher designations on the district’s salary schedule or provide stipends when teachers with these designations assume additional responsibilities that best serve the district’s needs.

R14CC guided OEE staff in articulating and documenting the core competencies, knowledge and skills, and potential classroom roles of both the Lead and Master designations, developing an infographic that delineated the desired outcomes for those teachers. The infographic is now used by educators looking to move along the Educator Career Continuum and direct their decision making around the best pathway for maximizing skills and career goals. Districts are also using the infographic to guide their planning and better understand the best placement for their designated teachers.


Strengthening the Mentor Program

R14CC is working with ADE to restructure its state mentoring program. This work includes drafting a mentoring program manual to bring structure and clarity to participants. The manual will serve as a foundational document that details the program’s mission, structure, instructional focus, and accountability processes so that ADE can continue to improve program development.

R14CC also reviewed curriculum materials for the mentoring program to better identify gaps and inconsistencies in alignment that need to be addressed, which may be an area of focus for future work.


Advancing Forward

R14CC will continue to support ADE in creating components of the mentor program, including curating and developing curriculum materials for mentors. R14CC will also assist in addressing priority requests that stem from LEARNS Act implementation and relate to teacher certification and evaluation.

In tandem with this Arkansas-specific work, and guided by the real-time lessons learned, the R14CC team developed a Talent Management Alignment workbook and corresponding Articulate module that can be used broadly by state education agencies (SEAs) to self-direct through the talent management alignment process. The eight steps in the workbook assist SEAs in determining whether and how state-level talent management policies and practices focus on desired performance competencies and fit with each other rather than existing in silos.