The University of Arkansas issued a news release this morning confirming a project I mentioned yesterday morning — a Walton Family Foundation grant to work with teachers in high-poverty schools.

The release says the foundation will spend $10.2 million over three years on  the Arkansas Academy for Educational Equity. The project will be headed by education professors Tom Smith and Gary Ritter. I reported earlier they’d been meeting with Little Rock School Superintendent Michael Poore about the special needs for teachers in a high poverty urban district like Little Rock. The news release said the program will be for low-income schools across the state.

Smith and Ritter will hire about a dozen people who will provide training over the summer and mentoring during the school year to 150 to 200 licensed, early career teachers. They will target teachers who’ve been effective and who want to improve their work.

The idea was inspired by federal legislation that encouraged teacher training apart from traditional licensure programs, the release said.


The news release doesn’t mention it, but Poore said — and emails among participants indicate — there’s been discussion about a new master’s degree program in education equity that addresses similar aims.

Jared Henderson, who has led Teach for America’s operation on Arkansas, has been a participant in planning for the project.


The UA resisted for a week providing information about the project and refused to answer my specific questions, which directly related to information provided in the news release this morning. This is in keeping with UA’s typical secretive handling of matters financed by Walton money. A key project funded in the past by the Waltons is the “education reform” unit at UA, which produces supporting work for, among other things, their charter school agenda. Ritter, who holds a chair endowed by Walton money, emphasized that this latest project addresses “traditional public schools.” The project will include an “evaluation and research component.”

UPDATE: Here’s the full outline of the grant application with the conditions to be met by UA in fulfilling it.  It anticipates working with 10 school districts in time (three the first year) and attempting to recruit 200 master degree candidates over three years. Test scores will be among the indicators of success in the program.