How to Become a Teacher in Arkansas
If you are looking to become a certified educator in Arkansas, there are several paths to obtaining a teaching license. At minimum, you must have a Bachelor's degree and pass a background check. All prospective educators in Arkansas are required to sit for the Praxis Principles of Teaching and Learning exam in addition to any specific Praxis Subject Assessments related to the subject or grade level you want to teach. Depending on the grade level or subject, the completion of three credit hours in Arkansas history may also be required.
You are eligible for a standard teaching license if you have a bachelor's degree from a Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) approved program. If you are coming from a different career area and do not hold a traditional education degree, Arkansas offers alternative certification tracks. These include on-the-job training or opportunities for graduate degrees in an educational field before being granted a teaching license. Arkansas does not grant automatic reciprocity for out-of-state licenses. Instead, teachers already licensed in another state are required to submit documents for review, then the state grants licenses on an individual basis.
Arkansas Teacher Certification Programs
Arkansas is home to 39 colleges and universities with teacher certification programs accredited by the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE). In addition, each program must be accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). You can expect the curriculum to contain coursework on pedagogy, childhood development and internships.
The University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, the flagship campus in the U of A system, offers degrees in elementary and secondary education. And, for those looking to get more specialized, U of A students can pursue a degree in Technology Education, Business Education or Family and Consumer Science Education. You can also complete extra endorsements like Dyslexia Therapy, Gifted and Talented, and Special Education Resource through the College of Education and Health Professions.
Arkansas State University's College of Education is another popular teacher preparation program. Located in Jonesboro, the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences offers certifications in specialties like play therapy and curriculum and instruction. Students in this program receive three phases of clinical experiences beginning with observations and concluding with a semester-long capstone internship.
The University of Central Arkansas in Conway prides itself on small class size and hybrid style learning with courses taught by professors with doctorate degrees instead of the graduate assistants frequently found at other schools. UCA offers the typical majors in elementary, secondary and special education while STEM majors have the option of STEM TEACH, a program specially designed for science and math majors to earn a teaching license in tandem with their degree. UCA's College of Education was named an Apple Distinguished School due to the school's special focus on technology's role in driving student learning and engagement.
Arkansas Teacher Certification Requirements
In order to teach in Arkansas, you must hold at least a bachelor's degree and must pass a full background check. While the state does not mandate a certain number of credit hours to complete in a teacher preparation program, graduates are expected to have around 60 full school days, or 420 hours, of student teaching or clinical experience.
Aspiring teachers are also required to complete seven hours of professional development in the following areas: scientific reading instruction, child maltreatment, family and community engagement, teen suicide awareness and prevention, dyslexia awareness, and human trafficking awareness. A three-credit or 45-hour course in Arkansas history is also needed to earn certification if you're looking to teach Early Childhood, Elementary Education, or Secondary Social Studies.
Arkansas Teacher Certification Tests
Arkansas teachers are required to pass a suite of Praxis exams in order to become fully licensed. When you're nearing the end of your preparation program, you'll take the Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching exam, designed to test knowledge of basic instructional practice and theory. Most applicants are then expected to undergo Praxis Subject Assessments which evaluate overall content knowledge in specific subject areas.
On top of the Praxis Series of exams, prospective teachers looking to earn certification in elementary education (grades K-6) or special education (grades K-12) are required to pass the Foundations of Reading exam on the science of reading instruction. Finally, if you are studying to add an online teaching endorsement onto your degree, you will need take the Online Teaching Assessment as well.
Like many other states, you will need to pass a series of Praxis exams in order to be licensed in Arkansas. You will first complete the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators exam in Reading, Writing and Math assessing basic academic skills in order to be admitted to a teacher preparation program. Praxis passing scores vary by educational preparation provider so it is recommended to check with your individual school to determine the benchmark score.
Depending on the grade level you want to teach, you will then complete the Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching designed to assess basic instructional skills and pedagogy in the following grade level bands: Early Childhood, K-6, 5-9, 7-12, or World Language Pedagogy. Passing scores also vary on these exams so it's important to check your school's guidelines. Applicants then take the individual Praxis Subject Assessments in their desired area of certification. These exams are more specific and test your depth of knowledge of subject area content. The Educational Testing Service (ETS) dictates a standard passing score for each of the Praxis tests available on their website.
Arkansas Foundations of Reading Assessment
If you are working toward certification in elementary education (grades K-6) or special education (grades K-12) you are expected to pass the Foundations of Reading Assessment. This exam assesses knowledge of early reading instruction and the science of reading. A computer-based test, it contains approximately 100 multiple choice questions and two written responses for a total of four hours of testing time. The Foundations of Reading test is offered year-round by appointment; it is available during a week-long window each month. Passing this assessment requires a score of 233.
Online Teaching Assessment
Those looking to add an online teaching endorsement can do so by taking the Online Teaching Assessment. This exam looks at an educator's skills to deliver quality instruction using technology and online platforms. The exam focuses on four phases that can be completed in any order:
- Course Preparation: This section measures a teacher's ability to plan and different online instruction.
- Course Development: This part looks at how the teacher executes the course, take in feedback and reflect on the outcomes of the online course.
- Communication with Stakeholders: This section looks at how the teacher builds relationships with students and families
- Syllabus Submission: This final section looks at the ability to draft a syllabus for overall course planning
Responses are graded with a rubric on a scale of 0-3 and a passing score, according to the test writers, is 60% on average. The Online Teaching Assessment is open during 6-week windows and test takers have access to rubrics, templates and prep modules after registering.
Additional Arkansas Teaching Requirements
In order to receive a teaching certificate in Arkansas, you are required to pass a full background check from the state police, FBI, and Child Maltreatment Central Registry. Applicants must also have fingerprints on file. Fingerprinting can be done through any law enforcement office or through an approved outside agency.
Arkansas Teacher Application Process
When applying for teacher certification in Arkansas, you must submit the following documentation and materials:
- Transcripts or proof of a completed bachelor's degree from a state-approved preparation program
- Proof of passing scores on the Praxis Core Academic Skills, grade-level appropriate Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching and any subject-specific Praxis Subject Assessments required for each desired subject
- A completed background check distributed to the appropriate agencies
- A completed application online via the Department of Education website or paper copy upon request
- A non-refundable processing fee of $75 for a five-year standard license payable online or via money order mailed to the Department of Education
Arkansas Teacher Renewal Certification
Standard Arkansas teaching licenses are good for five years. When it is time to renew, teachers must apply for an all new background check and submit an online application with a $75 processing fee. This is done exclusively online as paper copies are no longer accepted for license renewal. Current teachers are also asked to verify the completion of professional development hours either by specifying information in the application, having a form signed by a supervisor or uploading certificates, depending on how long they've been teaching in the state.
Alternative Teaching Certification in Arkansas
To adapt to the rapidly evolving educational landscape, Arkansas provides alternative methods beyond a traditional education degree that can still lead to full licensure. If you're interested in taking an alternative certification route, you are still required to hold a bachelor's degree, complete the background check and pass the appropriate Praxis exams.
Some choose to apply to the Arkansas Professional Pathway to Educator Licensure (APPEL) which allows prospective teachers to complete teacher education courses while simultaneously working as a classroom teacher. Teachers are given instructional lessons and in-person coaching along the way that they can implement in the classroom immediately. This program takes two years to complete with a fee of $1500 per year. A full overview of requirements and timeline for application can be found on DESE's website.
Arkansas also offers the American Board program which costs $1900 to enroll and allows you to take teacher coursework 100% online in a self-paced environment. You are eligible for licensure in middle grades and several secondary subjects after completing this program, which takes about 7-10 months. Applicants can apply to the American Board program at any time throughout the year. Once completed, you will be issued a three-year provisional license to teach in an Arkansas public or charter school and be given a mentor to help you along the way until you can apply for the standard license.
Others can choose the non-traditional master's route which leads to both Arkansas certification and a master's degree in Education or Teaching. You can expect to earn a graduate degree with around 30 credit hours of additional coursework. Most degrees cost about $10,000 to complete the program. Only some universities in the state offer this option and, depending on the program, you may also be allowed to teach while completing a master's degree.
Another option for standard licensure is the Arkansas Teacher Corps. This is an accelerated program in which high-achieving applicants commit to three years of teaching in districts in which there is a high need for educators. Candidates for this program must have a GPA of at least 2.75 and be able to attend a summer training institute before stepping into the classroom. Teachers accepted into the national Teach For America program and placed in Arkansas follow similar steps.
You can also participate in the eSTEM Residency Program if you're interested in teaching STEM subjects in grades 4-12. This program requires you to move to central Arkansas to teach at the eSTEM public charter school for at least three years. The program costs $500 and applications are accepted year-round.
Similarly, the Prism Teacher Institute program offers a pathway to certification in most areas for those who commit two years to teaching at the Prism Education Center in northwest Arkansas. This program costs $3200 in total and the application is open from March to May for the following school year.
Certification for Out of State Educators
The Department of Education (ADE) does not currently offer immediate reciprocity for teachers coming to teach in Arkansas from out of state. Instead, teachers who currently hold a license in good standing from a state other than Arkansas and wish to obtain an Arkansas' teaching certificate are required to first initiate a background check and request a reciprocity packet from the ADE to submit with necessary documentation. The completed packet contains:
- An online application with a $75 non-refundable processing fee
- Official transcripts from the educator preparation program
- A copy of the current educator license
- Content area testing completed for current license
- Proof of three years of licensed teaching experience if applicable
- The ADE's verification of teaching form
- Evidence of National Board of Professional Teaching Standards certification, if applicable
Once submitted, you can expect to hear back from the ADE within two weeks in regards to the status of their application. If basic requirements have been met but you do not yet meet the requirements for Praxis Subject exams or the Arkansas history requirement, a provisional license will be issued once the employing superintendent approves. Once all requirements are met, you are eligible to apply for a standard license.
Arkansas Teacher Employment Outlook and Salary
Currently, the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) estimates there are 473,861 students enrolled in grades K-12 across 1,042 schools across the state. There are an approximately 34,027 licensed teachers practicing in the state, bringing the teacher to student ratio to 14:1. Latest projections from Discover Arkansas's long-term outlook report indicate that education jobs in the state will grow by as much as 4.5% by the year 2028.
Salaries in Arkansas vary depending on qualifications, years of service, and grade level taught. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates an annual median salary for preschool teachers (except special education) of $32,930. Kindergarten teachers can expect to earn around $48,600 per year while other elementary school teachers take home $49,380 on average. Secondary teachers at the middle school level earn $51,360 and high school teachers typically make an average of $52,540 per year. Special educators across grade levels typically earn slightly more than general education teachers.