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Forward Arkansas Awards UA Little Rock $100K Grant to Help Recruit and Train K-12 Teachers

Charles W. Donaldson Student Services Center and Donaghey Student Center
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Photo by Ben Krain.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has received a $100,000 grant to help recruit, train, and retain K-12 teachers in Arkansas. UA Little Rock is one of eight Arkansas universities selected to participate in the Forward Arkansas’s Education Preparation Program (EPP) Design Collaborative.

The universities will receive design and technical assistance from Forward Arkansas and its partners to develop a “transformation plan” that captures their vision for change and aligns with the Arkansas Department of Education’s future direction for educator preparation.

Dr. Sarah Beth Estes, dean of the College of Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences, and Education, and Dr. Kent Layton, director of the UA Little Rock School of Education, will serve as the principal investigators on the grant.

“We are thrilled to be included with seven other EPPs in the state to plan toward growing our work in recruiting and educating high-quality teachers,” Estes said. “This grant provides wrap-around services to identify areas of focus, support for planning, and technical assistance for plan implementation.  We will be spending the next few months in a collaborative process including faculty, district stakeholders, and students to identify and plan for the implementation of the innovations that make most sense for us as an EPP in central Arkansas.”

Forward Arkansas selected the universities through a competitive statewide process. It sought a cohort of institutions of varying sizes and locations. It also looked for universities with proven commitments to increasing teacher diversity and track records of placing educators in high-need locations.

“We want to support and champion Arkansas institutions that have the bold ideas and committed leadership needed to transform our state’s teacher pipeline,” said Ben Kutylo, Forward Arkansas’s executive director. “Through the collaborative, we aim to help Arkansas recruit more qualified teachers, better prepare educators for the challenges of the classroom and improve overall teacher retention rates.”

The additional participating universities include Arkansas State University, Arkansas Tech University, Harding University, Southern Arkansas University, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, and University of Central Arkansas. Next year, a select number of institutions will have the opportunity to pursue additional funding for implementation in summer 2022.

Forward Arkansas was established in 2014 with grants from the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and Walton Family Foundation with the goal of improving outcomes for all students. It works with districts, schools, educational partners and state leaders to transform learning, build educator capacity and provide equitable resources to ensure every student has access to, and is prepared for, opportunities in life and career.