- Associated Press - Thursday, May 10, 2018

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The Connecticut legislature’s approval of new measures to recruit minority teachers could help boost numbers the state has been struggling to raise for decades, the state’s education commissioner said Thursday.

Like most of the United States, Connecticut has small numbers of minority teachers relative to its students. Only about 9 percent of public school teachers are African-American or Latino, while 44 percent of the students are nonwhite.

The legislation approved this week could help by creating new ways to obtain teacher certification and improve coordination with state agencies to identify candidates, Commissioner Dianna Wentzell said.

“We’ve been identifying this as a challenge for decades and yet our numbers weren’t really moving at all in spite of what we thought were reasonable efforts,” Wentzell said in an interview.

One change in the legislation would be to make it easier for teacher’s aides to become full teachers. It also calls for the Education Department to support new educator preparation programs and advise local education boards to prioritize minority teacher recruitment.

The office of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy says he will review the bill in the coming days.

A spokeswoman for the Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, said it was reviewing the bill and had no immediate comment.

Teacher diversity helps to close achievement gaps and has benefits in particular for test scores and graduation rates of minority students, according to research. Nationwide, the numbers of teachers of color have been growing, but African-American teachers are a declining share of the teacher workforce, according to the Learning Policy Institute.

There has been a renewed effort in many states to boost minority recruitment as diversity gaps between teachers and students have grown wider in places, said Michelle Exstrom, director of the education program at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Wentzell said the new legislation would build on efforts to reduce hurdles to certification, address implicit bias in hiring, and bring in teacher candidates from new fields. She said it could also be helpful to offer incentives such as scholarships to attract minority teachers, as other states have, but the money for such initiatives has not been available.

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