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Editorial: A positive step toward teacher diversity – New Haven Register

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Education State Department of Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona, right, and Gov. Ned Lamont listen to a presentation on the dual language curriculum as they visit Silvermine Dual Language Magnet School Feb. 28 in Norwalk. This was before masks were required in the pandemic.

Education State Department of Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona, right, and Gov. Ned Lamont listen to a presentation on the dual language curriculum as they visit Silvermine Dual Language Magnet School Feb.

Photo: Erik Trautmann / Hearst Connecticut Media

Education State Department of Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona, right, and Gov. Ned Lamont listen to a presentation on the dual language curriculum as they visit Silvermine Dual Language Magnet School Feb. 28 in Norwalk. This was before masks were required in the pandemic.

Education State Department of Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona, right, and Gov. Ned Lamont listen to a presentation on the dual language curriculum as they visit Silvermine Dual Language Magnet School Feb.

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Students can learn better when their educators look like them. Children need role models in the schools and the sense their experience is understood.

Yet while more than 47 percent of Connecticut’s students are people of color, only about 9.6 percent of teachers are. The disparity is neither new nor sudden and requires innovative action.

The state Department of Education is taking promising steps to address the gap by recruiting high school students to become teachers. A pilot program called Educators Rising that began in New Britain will be expanded, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, to 10 districts, including Danbury, Hamden, New Haven and Stamford, Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona and Gov. Ned Lamont announced Tuesday.

In the New Britain pilot program, more than 100 students have participated and more than half are students of color. With a generous grant from the Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation, the additional districts will receive curriculum, teacher training and “Beginning to Teach” micro-credentials for the teachers in training.

The exposure and encouragement have the potential to set students on a career path that can prove satisfying for them and significant for classrooms.

The program also makes the necessary leap from high school to college, which is important particularly for students who might be the first generation to attend a university. While in high school, participants can enroll in a course at Central Connecticut State University for free and earn credits toward a degree. With more cities in Educators Rising now, the free course work should be extended to the other three state universities.

To go one step further, we would like to see a statewide program that would forgive a portion of college debt for teachers who stay in the state after graduating and go to classrooms where the percentage of students of color is highest.

Though the number of teachers still lags, credit must be given to the state for the progress that has been made so far. In 2016, the state education department set a five-year goal of reaching 10 percent educators of color by 2021. The percentage for the 2019-20 school year reached 9.6 percent, up from 8.9 percent the year before. In a positive trend, of those 13.77 percent are administrators.

While the percentage of educators of color is rising, the state “remains committed to increasing the racial, ethnic, and linguistic diversity of the educator workforce and diminishing the gap between educators and students of color beyond the established goal,” Cardona said in a presentation to the state Board of Education Wednesday.

In recent years the education department’s Talent Office has worked toward the five-year goal, for example, by increasing pathways to teacher certification, including veterans as a target group.

Now by expanding the focus to high school students and showing them a way to become teachers, Connecticut is moving in a positive direction to make classrooms more reflective of the global reality — and therefore a benefit to all students.

This content was originally published here.

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