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Arkansas Policy Program report explores teacher recruitment, retention, quality

CONWAY, Ark. (August 18, 2017) – Hendrix College graduate Sami Sexton ’17 recently published Getting the Best Teachers Where They Are Needed Most through the Arkansas Policy Program (APP).

Developed by Hendrix politics professor Dr. Jay Barth with the support of the Bill and Connie Bowen Odyssey Professorship, APP builds upon Barth’s ongoing public policy and public opinion research and advocacy work related to Arkansas. Through APP, students and faculty provide nonpartisan, original analyses on key public policy issues in Arkansas through a new undergraduate think tank. 

Hendrix alumna Sami Sexton ’17, now a law student at New York University, wrote the report for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families (AACF), a Little Rock-based organization with the mission of ensuring that all children and their families have the resources and opportunities to lead healthy and productive lives and to realize their full potential.

Sexton believes that changes to the incentives for teachers who work in high-need school districts could have an immediate positive impact on education in Arkansas.

“We have incentives in place now, but it’s just not enough to make up for the salary differences across school districts,” she said. “Long-term, I’d love to see an overhaul of the way Arkansas funds school districts, shifting to a system that is more equitable across the state and less dependent on local property tax revenues.”

“Arkansas faces major challenges in teacher recruitment, retention, and equitable distribution of highly-qualified teachers across the state,” said Dr. Ginny Blankenship, AACF education policy director. “We’re grateful for the work that Sami did to bring more attention to this issue, and policymakers would be wise to take note.”

Barth noted that Sexton’s report includes helpful perspective on matters of teacher quality and availability.

“Having a high-quality teacher in the front of a classroom is the most crucial variable in positively impacting student learning,” Barth said. “We also know that the teacher pipeline is one of the most serious issues facing education in Arkansas. Sami’s very strong piece of research places Arkansas’s teaching pipeline issues in the national context and does a good job of laying out the challenges facing the state in this area.”

Sexton encourages Arkansans to see the progress already happening, and to demonstrate their interest in and desire for continued improvement.

“Arkansas has taken steps forward recently, and the legislature and the Department of Education continue to study these issues to see what changes should be implemented,” she said. “I hope that the combination of seeing those efforts, combined with knowing how far we still have to go, would encourage people to become more engaged on the subject, possibly communicating with their state legislators and making sure they know that people want to see this progress continue.”

To receive a free PDF file of the latest report or to learn more about APP, email, or view the report here

About Hendrix College

A private liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas, Hendrix College consistently earns recognition as one of the country’s leading liberal arts institutions, and is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges. Its academic quality and rigor, innovation, and value have established Hendrix as a fixture in numerous college guides, lists, and rankings. Founded in 1876, Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. To learn more, visit