Jefferson County school districts added to teaching program

A $2.3 million federal Partnership for Transition to Teaching grant facilitated by the University of Central Arkansas has expanded to include the Pine Bluff, Dollarway, Watson Chapel and White Hall school districts.

The U.S. Department of Education awarded the Transition to Teaching federal grant to UCA in Conway in 2011, the only school in Arkansas, to prepare math and science teachers for the North Little Rock and Little Rock school districts.

With the expansion, the grant now extends to the four Jefferson County partnership school districts as well as Carlisle School District, El Dorado Public Schools, Harrison School District and West Memphis School District. The grant now also expands to the English and language arts subject areas.

“We are excited about the prospect of serving more school districts and students in different areas of the state of Arkansas,” said Carolyn C. Williams, professor in the College of Education and principal investigator for the Partnership for Transition to Teaching grant. “We are also looking forward to receiving funding applications from prospective English and Language Arts teachers.”

The grant supports efforts to recruit mid-career professionals and recent graduates with degrees outside of education and then help these recruits become teachers through alternative certification routes. Teacher candidates enrolled in the 36-hour Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program at UCA can receive up to $5,000 in tuition.

Courses for the MAT program are offered primarily online. The deadline to apply for the Partnership for Transition to Teaching grant funds is May 1.

The 10 partnership school districts all report having at least 20 percent of families as living at or below the poverty line with less than 2 percent of teachers in the district not fully certified to teach in their subject area.

“We are struggling as a community and as a county and people are leaving the region,” said Danny Hazelwood, Watson Chapel Superintendent. “I think with this assistance we will have a little better chance of filling positions when they do open.”

The participating teacher candidates will earn preliminary teaching licensure and credentials in one year while working as university intern teachers in the 10 targeted partnership school districts. After earning the MAT using the grant funding, teachers are required to teach at least three years in high-need schools.

“We still believe that the teacher is the number one ingredient for success in the classroom,” said Bob Watson, superintendent of the El Dorado School District. “We are delighted to be a part of this project in that math, science, English and language arts are critical need areas. We have a great deal of difficulty in filling some of those positions.”

For more information about the Transition to Teaching program or the Master of Arts in Teaching, visit, email or call (501) 450-5443.