New Legislation, Increased Access to Effective, Diverse Educators

“In me my students see themselves.” In October 2016, Waterbury educator and National Teacher of the Year, Jahana Hayes spoke these words at a roundtable discussion after Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed Public Act 16-41 into law.

Every child deserves access to great educators because great teachers and school leaders change lives. Research shows that they are the two top in-school factors impacting student success. Research also shows that students of color, taught by teachers of color, perform better on a variety of outcomes including: school attendance, retention, standardized test scores, advanced-level course enrollment, etc. But, in our state, where about 45 percent of our students identify as people of color, only eight percent of educators identify as people of color.

Nationally, about 70 percent of Relay residents in 2016-17 identified as a person of color. In Connecticut, 79 percent of Relay’s residents identify as a person of color.

That’s why, with your help, ConnCAN supported and urged state leaders to pass Senate Bill 379, “An Act Concerning the Recommendations of the Minority Teacher Recruitment Task Force,” now Public Act 16-41. This new law builds upon conversations that ConnCAN convened at the community-level and previous policies we’ve supported  to recruit more high-quality teachers and leaders of color to Connecticut. This law breaks down barriers to help districts hire qualified teachers and leaders from out-of-state, particularly in shortage areas.

Public Act 16-41 will help give committed, prospective school leaders like Afrika Lyons of Hartford an opportunity to “serve and help the students in our state succeed in all areas of their lives.”

Afrika Lyons Testifying
School psychologist Afrkia Lyons (Left) with State Rep. Bruce Morris of Norwalk (Right), testifying before the Education Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly. March 7, 2016

In addition, we were pleased to support Relay Graduate School of Education (Relay GSE) coming to Connecticut. In November 2016, the State Board of Education approved Relay GSE as a new teacher preparation program in the state. Right now, far too many teachers report feeling unprepared for the job. In “Education School Teachers,” Arthur Levine of Teachers College at Columbia University found that 62 percent of new teachers said that they did not feel prepared for the reality of their classroom. Relay GSE’s main focus is instructional practice and it has demonstrated evidence of effectiveness. The program works to give its students opportunities to not only learn techniques that make them more effective, but also to practice them with expert faculty and peers. Through its Residency program, Relay GSE is attracting and preparing a diverse group of teachers. Nationally, about 70 percent of Relay residents in 2016-17 identified as a person of color. In Connecticut, 79 percent of Relay’s residents identify as a person of color. If we want our kids to succeed academically, we must give them the great teachers, school leaders, and role models they need and deserve. With your help, ConnCAN joined several Relay residents, and partners to testify in support of the program. Thank you for making it possible to do so.     

To learn more about Public Act 16-41 and how you’ve helped support great teachers and school leaders, click the links below.