How Arkansas is coping with the teacher shortage

The school is closed for the summer, but districts in Arkansas and across the country are struggling to deal with a shortage of teachers.

JACKSONVILLE, Ark. – School is closed, which means the hallways and classrooms at Taylor Elementary in Jacksonville are officially empty.

As teachers and students rest during summer vacation, the Jacksonville North Pulaski School District (JNPSD) is hard at work.

“Across the state, we are experiencing a teacher shortage,” said Deputy Superintendent Dr. Janice Walker. “We had to be very creative in filling positions and working very, very hard to find candidates.”

This work takes the form of finding qualified teachers. This is something Dr. Walker said they struggle with, as do other districts.

Despite this, the neighborhood is already preparing for next year long before the first bell even rings.

“Look, maybe, at outside resources that we could call on to help us so that we’re able to do that to meet the needs of our researchers,” Dr. Walker said.

This comes from the PEER Network, a collaborative effort between the Arkansas Public Schools Resource Center and the Crowley’s Ridge Educational Services Cooperative.

Their goal is to recruit qualified teachers into the school and keep them teaching.

“We jumped on it early, so we’re really moving forward with the next school year,” Dr. Walker said. “We are already filling many of these positions.”

This partnership gives the district a peer coach to let them know what works and what keeps students learning. It also gives them a diverse hiring pool to draw from.

Ultimately, that is their goal: to ensure that students receive the best education possible.

“Especially during the COVID years, focusing on culture because we know it’s been a tough time for all educators,” Dr. Walker said. “So we have to make sure that we take care of them and provide them with the support they need to be effective in the classroom.”

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