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In Arkansas there are many school districts in the south and the east (primarily the Arkansas delta region) that have many students who are at risk of failing in education. Many of those same districts have difficulty hiring and keeping teachers who are up for the challenge.

The Arkansas Teacher Corps is one organization that seeks to address those concerns, and we are fortunate to have such efforts in place.

It is not acceptable for only the students in the most affluent communities or in the most affluent school districts to be successful. Students who are living in poverty or attend school districts that serve impoverished areas often need more help than others.

That's true in any state, and Arkansas is no exception.

ATC is a program that provides intensive training for a number of teachers each year and then places them in school districts in Arkansas that have trouble attracting enough quality teachers.

ATC is a part of the College of Education and Health Professions at the University of Arkansas, and it was developed by faculty member Gary Ritter in 2012 to help alleviate teacher shortages in some of the state's poorest school districts.

According to an online University of Arkansas Newswire article on July 18, Ritter explained that the college has an obligation to prepare teachers to work in areas that have the greatest needs.

"ATC was built for this purpose," he said.

The stakes are high in education. When a student struggles in school and then drops out, it is not just the student's problem. And it is not just the problem of his or her parents (if the parents are in the picture). And it is not just the problem of the local school district.

No, the truth is, when a student fails to get his or her education, it is a problem for all of us.

As we live our own lives and take care of our own family and make sure things are okay in our own neighborhood, we can't ignore the fact that when a student is not successful, he or she can eventually create difficult challenges for all of society.

You already know this, but if a student does not get an education, he is more likely to be on public assistance or to end up in prison.

In light of those possibilities, it makes the job of educators more important than ever. If a young person is headed for failure, that young person needs a teacher who can intervene and make a real difference.

Ritter wrote about some of these needs in the Dec. 10, 2017, issue of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

He explained there is widespread agreement in education in two areas:

(1) teacher quality matters a great deal for student success, and

(2) U.S. schools have not, on average, figured out how to serve low-income students well.

While the ATC and other organizations like it seek to get good teachers for students who need the most help, we should also add that this is something that should be addressed in every school district, no matter how poor it is or how affluent it is.

Incidentally, in most school districts, particularly at the high school level, the most qualified and most highly-trained teachers end up teaching the sharpest students in upper-level classes. As a result, the struggling students do not always get the very best teachers.

Author and educational researcher Doug Reeves spoke out strongly on this subject in his book Leading Change in Your School. He wrote, "When schools claim that they are committed to achievement but systematically deny their most needy students their most effective teachers, then their claims of commitment are undermined by their policies."

The ATC should be applauded for, at the very least, beginning to intervene for students and school districts who find themselves in the midst of educational difficulty.

But whether an organization like the ATC is involved or not, educators everywhere have an obligation to make sure all students are prepared to take advantage of the opportunities that come their way.

It is simply a key ingredient in any good education.

We should acknowledge that education is not the answer to every problem in life, but it certainly gives a young person a great edge for no matter what life brings his way.

But in education, just as in life, there is often a discrepancy between the haves and the have-nots. The haves usually get their education, but the have-nots may fall short.

There are many reasons why things work out that way, but when all is said and done, it is in everyone's best interests to make sure that the so-called have-nots are successful as well.

It's not only good for them; it's good for all of Arkansas.

-- David Wilson, EdD, of Springdale, is a former high school principal and is the communications director for the Transit and Parking Department at the University of Arkansas. His book, Learning Every Day, is available on Amazon. You may e-mail him at dwnotes@hotmail.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

Editorial on 08/01/2018

Print Headline: Arkansas Teacher Corps

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