An online training program to give public school teachers new tools to help students perform better in school has debuted in the Natural State, Ark. Gov. Mike Huckabee has announced.

Huckabee, a Republican, helped launch the Arkansas IDEAS program, or Internet Delivered Education for Arkansas Schools, at a news conference Sept. 6 at the state education department. The program is designed to help teachers complete 60 hours of required professional development each year as mandated by the state legislature. “Over the past several years Arkansas has not just moved ahead, we’ve thrust forward in educational development,” Huckabee said. “Arkansas IDEAS will take professional development where the teachers are” and help the state continue to lead the way in education, he said.

Arkansas IDEAS was developed through the Arkansas Online Professional Development Initiative, a collaboration among the Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN), the Arkansas Department of Education, and PBS TeacherLine, which provides professional development courses for teachers nationwide.

The free program will offer online workshops and courses to educators throughout the state that can be accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, said AETN Education Director Kathleen Branton. Teachers can count courses completed through Arkansas IDEAS toward their professional development requirements, she said.

Through the web portal, AETN will offer teachers 70 PBS TeacherLine courses. The courses are all approved by the state education department and are aligned with the Arkansas curriculum framework as well as national standards, Branton said.

In addition to courses in core curriculum areas, teachers also can take courses in digital literacy and integrating technology into the classroom, Branton said. Courses typically last six weeks and have a specified start and end date, allowing educators to plan for and complete the courses.

For the current school year, 4,000 course enrollments are available.

The online courses and workshops will be led by experienced Arkansas teachers with master’s degrees who have been trained in online course facilitation, said PBS Vice President of Education Mary Kadera. Kadera said 35 teachers have been trained as course facilitators.

State Senate President Pro Tem Jim Argue, D-Little Rock, said that while Arkansas should celebrate four years of progress in education and improving standardized test scores, the Arkansas IDEAS program will help improve the state in more ways. “Arkansas IDEAS & is on the cutting edge of doing everything we can do to give teachers the resources they deserve so they can succeed in the classroom,” Argue said. Diana Julian, assistant education commissioner, said the IDEAS program will benefit not only teachers, but ultimately the students.

“The program will improve what we’re all here for: student achievement,” she said.