Act 1240 waivers, teacher licensure, academic student growth, high-poverty school districts
Act 1240 of 2015 allows Arkansas school districts to petition for waivers allowing for the employment of teachers who are not licensed under the standard procedures of the state. Since the program’s inception in the 2016-17 school year, the number of teachers employed under Act 1240 waivers has increased, with the Arkansas Department of Education reporting 836 teachers hired using Act 1240 waivers in 69 districts during the 2021-22 school year. This represents approximately one quarter of the districts within the state, but only approximately 2 percent of the nearly 40,000 teachers employed last year.
Using publicly available data from the Arkansas Department of Education, we found that Act 1240 waivers are used by districts across Arkansas, but are most prevalent in high-poverty districts in the southeast region of the state. After statistically controlling for school poverty and size, students in schools that hire Act 1240 teachers are less likely to meet grade-level expectations on the state assessments in literacy and mathematics compared to students in schools that do not. Differences in average student academic growth scores between schools with and without Act 1240 teachers, however, are insignificant. This suggests that the schools that utilize Act 1240 waivers may have underlying differences that contribute to lower student achievement than evidenced by similar schools, but that the introduction of teachers working under Act 1240 waivers does not, on average, significantly impact the academic growth of students within waiver schools.
We found, however, that the districts with low usage of Act 1240 teacher licensure exceptions demonstrated growth and achievement trends consistent with districts that did not employ any waiver teachers. In contrast, districts where more than 25 percent of teachers were employed under an Act 1240 waiver in 2021-22 had lower levels of student achievement and growth in 2015-16 - the year before the waiver program began. Moreover, these districts experienced greater declines in students' achievement and growth than districts with no waiver use. This suggests that heavy Act 1240 waiver usage is driven by pre-existing structural changes facing specific, struggling districts, and should be considered as a signal of a need for greater all-around support for these districts.
McKenzie, S. C. (2023). The Usage and Impact of Act 1240 Teacher Licensure Waivers in Arkansas. Policy Briefs. Retrieved from https://scholarworks.uark.edu/oepbrief/166