The Arkansas Adolescent Literacy Intervention is one such effort. A partnership between UCA’s Mashburn Center for Learning and the Arkansas Department of Education has been forged to address the present challenges. The partnership stems from the long-term overriding goal of UCA’s Mashburn vision to build a capacity throughout the state of Arkansas to prepare classroom teachers to use scientifically based instructional practices to improve outcomes for students prone to fail or fall behind. Instructional practices developed by the University of Kansas – Center for Research on Learning have been the cornerstone of the instructional methodologies provided at UCA’s Mashburn Center for Learning
The Arkansas Department of Education – Literacy Division and the Arkansas Department of Education – Special Education Division awarded the University of Central Arkansas Mashburn Center for Learning $279,000 and $259,000 respectively during the 2006-2007 school years to help reduce the frequency of school failure among adolescents in Arkansas. The $538,000 grant awards are designed to support scientifically based professional development to improve teachers’ knowledge and skills at the middle and secondary levels.
During the 2007-2008 school year, the Arkansas Department of Education – Literacy Division and the Arkansas Department of Education – Special Education Division have awarded an additional $483,000.00 to sustain the intervention effort implemented in 2006-2007.
Literacy specialists, k-12 literacy coaches, special educators, general content specialists, and alternative educators representing multiple school districts and education co-ops are participating in professional development activities. Approximately 45 educators are involved in developing skills designed to help students become more effective and successful learners using a variety of scientifically based learning strategies. Approximately 60 more educators are involved in developing scientifically based content enhancement routines designed to help the educators more effectively organize and teach content difficult for students to learn. A percentage of the participants are also participating in professional development activities designed to help them become certified professional developers. A major focus for the present intervention is to develop certified professional developers who will help sustain the present efforts of the initiative. Ten Arkansas educators participated in the first Potential Professional Development Institute offered in the state.
In 2008-2009, the Arkansas Department of Education, Literacy Education Division, awarded the UCA Mashburn Center for Learning $338,400. The Mashburn team continued providing professional development for the six school districts. Nine educators also participated in the week-long Potential Professional Development Institute on the UCA campus in June, 2008. The nine were required to fulfill a variety of apprenticeship assignments during the 2008-2009 school year. The nine completed their apprenticeship and became Certified Professional Developers in July, 2009. They were recognized at the KU-CRL annual conference in Lawrence, Kansas at that time.
In 2009-2010, the Arkansas Department of Education, Title II, awarded the UCA Mashburn Center for Learning $325,400 to continue professional development activities. A primary focus during the year is to build capacity within district sites and add districts to the intervention. At the present time, there are 14 Certified Professional Developers working with approximately 20 districts and 30 school sites. There is a major thrust to develop professional learning communities among the teaching teams, administrators, and certified professional developers.