To outsiders, Arkansas is often defined by its challenges and shortcomings. Given that almost 27 percent of children are growing up in poverty, and only two states have a smaller percentage of adults with an associate’s degree or higher, it’s indisputable that there is hard work to be done.
Nevertheless, visitors and new corps members of Teach For America-Arkansas learn quickly why many Arkansans respond to these challenges with optimism bolstered by fierce pride. Johnny Cash and Maya Angelou both hail from Arkansas. So do wartime leaders like Generals Douglas MacArthur and Wesley Clark, and political figures like Senator J. William Fulbright and President Bill Clinton.
Today, homegrown Arkansas companies like Walmart, Dillard’s, Murphy Oil, Stephens Inc., and Tyson Foods are building a diversified economy that requires a skilled workforce, illustrating the need for a strong public education system. The public sector has responded with education reforms including robust data and accountability systems, as well as some of the most rigorous standards and assessments in the country. All of this makes the state ripe for breakthrough progress, especially in education.
In recent years, our corps in Arkansas has grown exponentially as part of the Greater Mississippi Delta region. Nevertheless, requests for our teachers have still outpaced supply by almost two to one, making Arkansas fertile ground for more teachers and leaders who'd like to work alongside the people already doing amazing work in this part of the country.