LITTLE ROCK — A survey by the Arkansas Partnership for Teacher Quality found the state produces too many teachers but not enough in certain subjects or in certain locations.
The study, which was presented to the House and Senate Education Committees on Tuesday, was designed to get a comprehensive picture of teacher training and retention in Arkansas.
It was funded by the Arkansas Education Association, which is a teachers union,and the Arkansas Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.
It used data from the state Department of Education and the Department of Higher Education of the 14,420 teachers licensed from 2002 to 2008, 9,968 teachers with fewer than four years’ experience and 1,117 first-year teachers, according to the study.
Dr. Angela Sewall, College of Education Dean at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, told the committees that the state prepares more teachers than it needs. The14,240 who obtained new licenses from 2002 to 2008 to teach in the state included 9,968 who got teaching jobs.
According to the Department of Education, 12,723 people retired during that period. That number only includes retirees, not people who left their positions for other reasons, department spokesman Seth Blomeley said.
The study showed that between 2004 and 2008, 55.4 percent of newly licensed teachers were employed within three years of being licensed.
Arkansas Education Association governmental relations representative Richard Hutchinson said the number of teachers trained in Arkansas has generally increased over the past seven years.
“We’ve actually prepared more teachers than we lose, than we need, but not always in the subject areas that we need and not always teachers that will go to the areas where we most need them,” he said.
Sewall said people trained as teachers are reluctant to leave the area of the state they come from to teach.
“I understand that. I love where I live too, but there are needs greater than ourselves and we need to figure out a way to address it,” she said.
New Arkansas teachers who do find teaching jobs are more likely than the national average to continue teaching. The study shows that, nationally, 11 percent of beginning teachers leave the profession their first year, but in Arkansas that number is less than 1 percent.
After five years, more than 80 percent of beginning Arkansas teachers are still teaching, while nationally that number is 60 percent or lower, according to the study.
That retention rate is different at schools with high black populations though, Hutchinson said. The higher the percentage of black students in a school, the lower the teacher retention rate, he said.
“It’s schools where we may have the most need for teacher’s staying they seem to leave more quickly,” Hutchinson said.
That bothered state Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock.
“I know in my heart they’re not leaving because the kids are African-American,” Elliott said. “Teachers don’t want to live in the conditions where these kids have to live.”
The study also indicated that teachers with at least six months of hands-on experience like student teaching before becoming a full-time teacher are better-prepared in their first year.
The amount of experience a person has before becoming a teacher depends on how that person becomes a teacher, according to the study. In Arkansas, teachers can get licensed through undergraduate programs, graduate programs, an alternative licensing program run by the Arkansas Department of Education or Teach for America.
The study showed that 21 percent of all newly licensed teachers in the past seven years came from the Department of Education alternative licensing program. Arkansas State University at Jonesboro produced the second-highest number of teachers in that same time span, at 14 percent.
The study showed that teachers prepared by a higher-education institution felt they were more-prepared to be teachers and stayed in the profession longer than nontraditional teachers.
The program was created to encourage people to become teachers later in life, Beverly Williams, assistant commissioner for human resource and licenses, said. They receive two years of on-the-job training, she said.
“There’s a reason we have the program,” Williams said. “We need each other to staff all our schools.”
The study also showed that the racial makeup of new Arkansas teachers does not represent the racial makeup of students in the classroom. Teachers also tend to be women.
From 2002 to 2008, the percentage of white teachers in Arkansas rose from 84 percent to 92 percent. Nationally the percentage of white teachers is decreasing, the study said.
“Our student population is growing more diverse, our teacher population is growing less,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson said lack of support from principals is the No. 1 reason people said they leave teaching. Support is not defined in the study.
He said he wants to look at more training for principals.
“This is a critical problem, this is not something we can ignore,” he said. “The best-prepared and the best-motivated people in the world can’t do as good a job if they’re in a dysfunctional system.”