Forward Arkansas launches program to transform teacher preparation

LITTLE ROCK – Forward Arkansas is launching a grant program focused on building a collaborative of Arkansas Educator Preparation Programs (EPPs) that will develop transformative plans to more effectively recruit, train and retain qualified, diverse classroom teachers across the state.

The nonprofit will award grants of $100,000 to six Arkansas EPPs to support a year of planning. A subset of participating EPPs will then have the opportunity to receive additional resources and support to implement the plans over the following three years.

“Arkansas schools already face a significant shortage of teachers, and COVID-19 has made it worse,” said Ben Kutylo, executive director of Forward. “Addressing this challenge is foundational to improving education in Arkansas. We need to act quickly and effectively or we will see lasting negative impacts across all districts, particularly in Arkansas’s most marginalized schools.”

Following the statewide grant competition, Forward will work with the national partners US PREP, TPI-US and 2Revolutions to help the selected universities design and plan for the growth and improvement of their teacher preparation programs. The collaborative of EPPs will focus on increasing the quantity, diversity and quality of prospective teacher candidates. In addition, it will make the state’s teaching program experience more practice-based.

“Our teachers need to be prepared and supported to address the changing realities in schools and the needs of today’s students,” said Kutylo. “We believe this program will support university-based EPPs to provide a rigorous, modern and job-based experience to produce more high-quality and diverse educators across the state.”

Research shows attracting and retaining quality teachers is essential to students’ learning and overall academic performance. The New Teacher Project, a national education nonprofit, found teachers who rank in the top 20 percent generate more than five-months’ worth of student learning annually compared to their peers. 

Throughout the process, Forward will collaborate closely with the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) to ensure the new initiatives are aligned with the state’s education priorities. According to state data, Arkansas saw a more than 50% drop in teacher candidate enrollment from 2013 to 2018. Many schools now have teachers with less than three years of classroom experience. Nearly 10% of first-year educators are not retained, and just over 30% leave after five years. 

“Clearly, a good teacher can make a tremendous difference,” Kutylo said. “Our goals are that within five years, Arkansas will be producing more high-quality and diverse teachers, especially in high need areas of the state, and that performance levels and retention rates will have increased. That will have a positive impact on K-12 student outcomes, as students graduate and move on to college or careers.”

About Forward Arkansas

Forward Arkansas was established by the Walton Family Foundation and Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation to help ensure every student has access to, and is prepared for, opportunities in career and life. Forward works with districts, schools, educational partners and state leaders to transform student learning, build educator capacity and ensure equitable resources. To learn more, visit

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