The Arkansas Department of Education approved new rules and regulations governing educator licensure on March 7, 2018. Notable in the changes to the rules was the removal of standards for admission of candidates to teacher education programs. Prior to this version of the rules, candidates seeking admission to teacher education programs in Arkansas were required to hold a 2.7 GPA and pass the Praxis Core tests in reading, writing, and mathematics. The rules now state that the educator preparation program provider must be accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) which would require EPPs to maintain a 3.0 GPA admission standard for the cohort and to report competitive cohort scores on a CAEP approved standardized test for reading, writing, and mathematics to include either the Praxis Core or the ACT or the SAT. Competitive scores as defined by CAEP mean that that cohort scores at or above the 50th percentile, and CAEP re-establishes that benchmark each year. (see http://caepnet.org/~/media/Files/caep/standards/caep-standard-3-component-32-measures-of.pdf).
Additionally, teachers in K-6 and special education programs must now also pass a stand-alone test on the “science of reading” instruction beginning with those candidates admitted in the 2017-2018 academic year. EPPs also must publish on their websites information describing how its program prepares teachers in the scientific reading instruction. Candidates in all licensure areas must complete professional development hours in dyslexia awareness
Other notable rules in the current version include an option for teacher residency programs. In the original versions, this rule allowed school districts to establish their own residency programs to train and license teachers with minimal state oversight. In this final version, school districts have increased oversight by the Arkansas Professional Licensure Standards Board (PLSB) and must meet the requirements for the approval of programs, like a traditional EPP.
Finally, the new rules provide for a framework for multiple tiers of licensure, termed the “Educator Career Continuum,” beginning in the 2018-2019 school year. The intent of this continuum is to provide teachers professional opportunities to grow into new roles for leadership and to recognize outstanding achievement of effective teachers who wish to remain in the classroom.