Recently, Arkansas updated its rules and regulations for teachers and published a draft for public review and comment. A featured part of the proposed draft features plans to allow districts to establish teacher residency programs. These school-based teacher preparation programs could be an option for districts to train new teachers for the field. The draft rules indicate that new teachers hired into a residency program would be required to teach for “not less than one academic year” alongside an effective teacher while receiving concurrent instruction during that year through courses taught by local school personnel or faculty at teacher preparation programs.
The draft rules and regulations also allow for the state to issue emergency teaching permits which allow the holder to fill a vacant teaching position without a license for up to two years. Applicants for this permit must hold a bachelor’s degree.
The provisions outlined in the Arkansas Teacher Residency Program and the Emergency Teaching Permit raise concerns regarding a potential degradation in quality for the preparation of teachers for all K-12 students. It appears that that these pathways (along with other alternate pathways already established in the state) are not held to the same rigorous accreditation requirements as the traditional pathways and represent a furthering erosion of the education profession.
The intent of these alternative pathways are meant to fill shortage areas and support districts struggling to find teachers. These provisions imply “anyone” can teach, and that is demonstrably not true. Additionally, the districts needing to fill classrooms with unaccredited teachers will disproportionately affect districts with higher enrollment of minority and low-income students. This discrepancy continues social, racial, and economic divides already experienced by the children enrolled in these schools.
While residency programs have had some documented successes, to ensure high quality programs in this pathway, these programs should be required to work with higher education partners to ensure implementation of research-based practices. These programs should be held accountable to the same external requirements as the EPPs. The state should not lower standards for alternative routes while at the same time increasing the standards for EPPs.