New Haven, Conn.—Today, the Education Committee voted to send Senate Bill 455: An Act Concerning Minority Teacher Recruitment and Retention on to the floor of the Senate for further action.
Connecticut faces a representation crisis in classrooms, with fewer than 10 percent of educators identifying as people of color while 45 percent of their students are children of color across the state. Senate Bill 455 would narrow this gap, taking important steps toward helping school districts to recruit and retain diverse teachers and school leaders. However, the bill falls short in creating meaningful, flexible pathways for charter public school educators to earn certification–even though charter public schools are setting the standard in Connecticut for workforce diversity (the top five most diverse teacher teams in the state work in charter public schools).
“Today’s vote to move Senate Bill 455 forward is a move in the right direction for Connecticut schools, and can eliminate barriers to teaching that have little or no correlation with a teacher’s job performance or positive impact on kids,” said Jen Alexander, chief executive officer of ConnCAN (Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now). “This move could be further strengthened by also allowing charter public school teachers flexible pathways to professional certification, so that more students in every kind of learning environment have access to excellent and diverse educators. We look forward to working with legislative leaders to strengthen the bill and ensure it becomes law.”
Across Connecticut, public school districts report a loss of talented candidates to neighboring states and private schools, largely because of hurdles in the state’s current certification process. The result is a teacher shortage in some of our highest-need communities, and in critical subjects like math, science, special education and bilingual education. Chronically vacant positions hurt students–yet six in every 10 unfilled teaching positions can be attributed to a lack of candidates who meet qualification demands.
Senate Bill 455 would help schools fill these positions by clearing the way to hire measurably promising teachers. The bill would begin to make on-the-job performance a stronger determining factor in certification than “check-the-box” requirements, like coursework, create innovative pathways into the profession and break down expensive barriers to teacher certification that don’t have a clear correlation with more effective instruction. Today, too many teacher candidates are barred from schools, or delayed in their hires, because they did not complete lower-level coursework even if they have a clear mastery of their subject area.
“Today, the General Assembly Education Committee took a significant step by moving SB 455 forward in the legislative process, and has clearly paved a way for the state’s General Assembly to take a monumental step to usher forth an era of change that will vastly diversify our classrooms and school leaderships like never before,” said Rev. Abraham Hernandez, executive director of the Connecticut National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which that represents more than 200 Hispanic Evangelical churches in the state.
Rev. Hernandez continued: “We pray and believe that in the midst of this legislative session, we will witness a new day in Connecticut where teacher certification will not be frowned upon or its intentions questioned any longer. By this much needed overhaul, we are telling qualified, competent and passionate candidates in the education field that Connecticut has a place for them, and welcomes all with open arms.”
“We want to express our appreciation to the Education Committee for their strong support of viable actions to increase minority teacher recruitment and retention in our state. We agree with the Committee that Senate Bill 455 will strengthen education for all of Connecticut’s students in a growingly diverse, global environment,” said Rev. Carl McCluster, senior pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in Bridgeport and managing director of The FREEDOM Inc. Faith Collaborative, a Connecticut-based amalgam of faith and community organizations committed to enhancing education, housing, sustainability and economic development outcomes throughout the state and nationally. “We encourage our legislators to take even stronger steps in ensuring equity for the many diverse delivery models including public schools, magnet schools, charter public schools and others.”