On February 10, 2020, the Hartford Courant published an article by Amanda Blanco regarding efforts to diversify Connecticut’s teaching ranks
A lack of minority teachers in Connecticut remains a significant problem and one the legislature’s education committee wants to continue to tackle this year, legislative leaders said at a news conference Monday.
“The research shows that all our children … learn better when there’s a diverse teaching population,” Sen. Douglas McCrory, D-Hartford, a co-chair of the education committee, said. “One of the things we plan to do this legislative session is put some finances behind how we go out, recruit and retain minority teachers.”
While more than 40% of Connecticut’s student population are people of color, only 8.7% of the state’s public school teachers are people of color, Gov. Ned Lamont’s office said last year. Lamont received a standing ovation for his comments on the issue in his State of the State address last week.
“With half our students being children of color, [state] education Commissioner Miguel Cardona and I have prioritized recruiting black and Hispanic teachers and developing courses that showcase the important contributions those communities have made to American history,” he said, in the address.
A CT Mirror data analysis from 2018 showed that while the number of minority teachers in Connecticut schools has increased over the last decade, “the growth hasn’t kept pace with the influx of Hispanic and Latino students entering public schools. As a result, minority students are now less likely to have a teacher who looks like them.”
In 2019, the legislature passed a bill designed to increase the recruitment and retention of minority teachers across the state. However, it never received financial backing.
The bill required the Department of Education’s Minority Teacher Recruitment Policy Oversight Council to ensure the state’s local and regional education boards “annually hire and employ at least 250 new minority teachers and administrators,” 30% or more of which are male, each year beginning with the 2020-21 school year.
Other initiatives included in the bill were teacher certification reciprocity with other states, mortgage assistance for teachers who graduated from colleges and universities that traditionally serve minority students and flexibility in certain teacher certification requirements.
“There were many provisions in that bill that will go a long way to help us retain minority teachers, but I’m also interested in looking at what are we doing with minority teachers that receive their teaching certificates [but] do not enter into the teaching profession,” said Rep. Kathleen McCarty, R-Waterford, the ranking House Republican on the education committee. “We need to look at that and see what we can do throughout Connecticut to be welcoming and to be culturally competent in our training and development.”
Subira Gordon, executive director of the state education advocacy group ConnCAN, expressed concern about school districts’ hiring practices. Certified minority teachers in Connecticut struggle to find employment, she said. Gordon emphasized the importance of making sure those who hire teachers are aware of their own “unintentional biases and are able to hire someone that may not look like them.”
“This is a problem,” she said. “Kids of color do better when they have a role model who looks like them in the classroom. We know that, the studies say that. … It’s time to make good on that promise.”
A lack of diversity among teachers remains national issue. According to the National Center of Education Statistics, 80% of America’s public school teachers during the 2015-2016 school year were white, while 7% were black, 9% were Hispanic and 2% were Asian.
“Having a teacher of the same race/ethnicity can have positive impacts on a student’s attitudes, motivation, and achievement and minority teachers may have more positive expectations for minority students’ achievement than non-minority teachers,” the center said.
Amanda Blanco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.