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U.S. Dept. of Education Awards Reach University & TNTP $8.7MM to Grow Certified, STEM-Qualified Teachers in Arkansas’ Highest-Need Districts – Press Release

In partnership with the Arkansas Dept. of Education, funding will serve 650+ diverse, future educators through paid job-embedded, teacher apprenticeship degrees, certifications, and full-time teaching roles.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark., Sept. 23, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Reach University, our nation’s nonprofit leader in accredited teacher apprenticeship-based degrees, and TNTP (formerly The New Teacher Project), a nonprofit addressing educational inequities in U.S. schools, announced today the receipt of a projected $8.7 million U.S. Department of Education grant to accelerate the growth and impact of its teacher prep apprenticeship degree and licensure programs throughout Arkansas’ highest-need communities.

With the right training & degree, there’s 1.3mm paraprofessionals who could fill 100% of current 300k teacher vacancies.

Issued in part of the Department’s Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) grant program, and awarded on the heels of the Administration’s recent announcement to utilize registered apprenticeships to achieve teacher staffing and representation goals, the funding will serve 650+ future educators, specialized in math, science, and English language arts, throughout the next five years.

“The state of Arkansas is investing heavily in smart teacher preparation and certification models that break down historical barriers to result in qualified, specialized and diverse educators leading classrooms across the state. Reach and TNTP have been on the forefront of this effort, and this funding will take Great Rivers ESC from our highest-need to highest-example of how districts can grow their own classroom-ready, representative teachers,” said Karli Saracini, Assistant Commissioner of Educator Effectiveness at Arkansas Department of Education.

The program offers three distinct pathways into teaching, providing those who have completed high school, community college, and/or an undergraduate degree a tailored, debt-free and certified pathway into the classroom and beyond.

For those without an undergraduate degree, the program equips districts with the ability to grow their own educators by recruiting local talent to fill needed paraprofessional roles. Once the paraprofessional is hired, they will begin a job-embedded teacher apprenticeship, where their job leads to a Liberal Studies B.A. Upon degree completion, the paraprofessional will move into a full-time teaching position within the district.

“With the right training and degree, there are 1.3 million paraprofessionals who could fill 100% of the current 300,000 public school teacher vacancies. But to make adult learner degree attainment possible, we must remove the forced choice between a job and a degree. With Reach’s job-embedded undergraduate programs, ‘either/or’ becomes ‘yes/and,’ creating a new way for districts to think about recruiting talent, upskilling that talent, and supporting each employee on a path to long-term career success. The state of Arkansas is not only a leader in embracing teacher apprenticeships to solve its teacher shortage, but in also starting with the communities who need it most,” said Dr. Mallory Dwinal-Palisch, Chancellor, Reach University.

Reach’s degree-bearing teacher apprenticeships offer a solution to long standing diversity and retention challenges seen throughout the country, and amplified in rural and low-income communities. The program ensures districts can recruit a diverse candidate pool, in which at least 50% of program completers and future teachers identify as Black, Indigenous and/or people of color. 90%+ of candidates are then hired and retained in their “home” districts for no less than five years. Demographic rates mirror Reach’s other district partners across Arkansas, Louisiana, California and Alabama.

“What’s most exciting is that we, alongside TNTP, are putting these funds to use today, day one,” said Joe Ross, President, Reach University. “Reach is already serving nearly 200 diverse, future educators through our teacher apprenticeship degrees across every cooperative in the state. With this funding, we will not only dramatically expand the highly-qualified and specialized teacher pipeline, but we will also equip Arkansans with debt-free, job-embedded degrees, unlocking a new type of postsecondary opportunity.”

The awarding of TQP’s funding also reinforces the value of fully-embedded apprenticeship degrees and alternative credential pathways in solving the systemic teacher shortage. The grant will continue to fuel the integration of the final year of Reach’s undergraduate program and the first year of the TNTP, Arkansas Professional Educator Pathway (ArPEP).

“By providing both debt-free pathways to the classroom for prospective teachers and giving more students access to effective, diverse educators, this program will contribute to better futures across these communities,” said Dr. Tequilla Brownie, TNTP CEO and Arkansas native. “We are proud to be a partner in this work.”

The joint integration is heavily focused on key mentorship with district certified teachers and Reach’s award-winning faculty, many of whom are former Teachers and Principals of the Year. It also bridges ArPEP training and expands the curriculum beyond traditional senior-level and teacher certification coursework.

“With Reach, we will leverage this funding to expand the Arkansas Professional Educator Pathway (ArPEP), providing a job-embedded experience that is high-quality, faster, more affordable and seamless from a B.A. to teaching certification,” said Celena Siprajim, Partner, TNTP.

TQP funding will serve future educators molding the educational experience and success of approximately 13,000 learners, across 34 schools and 10 Great Rivers ESC districts throughout the five-year grant period, while solving systemic challenges of recruiting and retaining qualified, specialized and job-ready teachers in Arkansas rural communities.

The program will soon scale to other high-need communities across the south and southeastern portions of the state, where Reach University is already working and utilizing existing state and federal workforce development funding to train future educators.


Reach University is a regionally accredited, non-profit university that pioneers debt-free apprenticeship-based degrees. Reach is actively solving America’s teacher shortage by creating fully-embedded pathways for high-potential individuals to earn degrees, credentials and jobs as teachers within their own communities. By focusing on low-income, urban and rural regions, offering online tutorials and classes, and rendering academic credit for on-the-job experience, Reach University is eliminating barriers to entry in high-need professions, and building grow-your-own pipelines of locally representative talent.


TNTP believes our nation’s public schools can offer all children an excellent education. A national nonprofit founded by teachers, we help school systems end educational inequality. We work at every level of the public education system to attract and train talented teachers and school leaders, ensure rigorous and engaging classrooms, and create environments that prioritize great teaching and accelerate student learning. Since 1997, we’ve partnered with hundreds of public school districts, charter school networks, and state departments of education. We have recruited or trained more than 50,000 teachers and inspired policy change through acclaimed studies such as The Mirage(2015), The Irreplaceables (2012), and The Widget Effect (2009). Our latest report, The Opportunity Myth (2018), followed nearly 4,000 students in five diverse school systems to learn more about their experiences in school. Today, TNTP works directly with more than 300 school systems in 35 states.

Contact Information:
Reach University
Lauren Bauml
[email protected]
(512) 923 – 6136

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