May 31, 2024

State Officials Seek to Boost Teacher Diversity at West Hartford Forum

Connecticut education officials stressed the importance of developing a diverse teacher workforce during a Wednesday conference focused on efforts to recruit and support the next generation of educators.

The event, held at West Hartford’s University of Saint Joseph, featured remarks and panel discussions including some of Connecticut’s leading education officials, who talked about ways to leverage resources to recruit more teachers and address a diversity gap between the racial backgrounds of students and their educators.

During his remarks, Senator Doug McCrory, an educator who co-chairs the legislature’s Education Committee, described the formative impact a teacher of color had on his own career path.

“The reason I became an educator is because I had a Black, male educator in the third grade. That’s a fact,” McCrory, D-Hartford, said. “He had such a profound impact on every child… We know how important it is to have a role model in the classroom.”

Connecticut schools have long had a diversity gap between the racial backgrounds of students and teachers. For instance, students of color made up roughly 52.5% of the student population during the 2022-23 school year, while educators of color accounted for just 11.2% of the educator population, according to a report by Education Reform Now Connecticut.

The state and its partners have taken steps to address this diversity shortfall. During Wednesday’s conference, Sinthia Sone-Moyano, deputy commissioner of the State Department of Education, said that the Educators Rising curriculum had expanded to 28 school districts across Connecticut.

The Educators Rising program encourages students to consider careers in education in hopes of diversifying the state’s teacher workforce. The initiative launched in 2020 in 10 school districts. Sone-Moyano said the program was now helping more than 500 students explore careers in teaching.

“That is not by coincidence or chance,” Sone-Moyano said of the program’s expansion. “There has been intentionality by the State Department of Education and our board, who have made it a priority to diversify our educator workforce in Connecticut.”

McCrory said that studies have shown that students experience better outcomes when they learn from a diverse group of teachers.

“That’s what the research says. So as policymakers, we have to find ways to make that a reality,” McCrory said. “If we want to be the best for all students, we have to diversify our teaching population.”

Earlier this year, McCrory partnered with the Education Department to remind eligible students to apply for the Aspiring Educators Diversity Scholarship Program intended to promote more diversity among teachers in Connecticut classrooms.

The scholarship provides up to $10,000 annually for students from a diverse background, who graduate from a public high school in one of Connecticut’s 16 Priority School Districts.

Posted by Hugh McQuaid