New Haven, State Officials Enthusiastic about Alternative Teacher Certification Program

By Zahn, Brian | New Haven Register (New Haven, CT), October 30, 2016 | Go to article overview

New Haven, State Officials Enthusiastic about Alternative Teacher Certification Program


Zahn, Brian, New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)


NEW HAVEN » In the days after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed Senate Bill 379, which continues the state's Minority Teacher Recruitment Task Force, city and state education officials have been more deliberate about announcing plans to assist qualified teacher candidates of color in becoming certified to teach.

At a joint announcement with state NAACP officials the day Malloy signed the bill about an upcoming minority teacher recruitment summit, outgoing Superintendent of Schools Garth Harries mentioned the district's intent to "grow our own," or to encourage non- certified school personnel interested in entering the classroom to get a certification.

New Haven Public Schools Talent Office supervisor Mike Crocco said last week that state budget cuts made alternative routes to teacher certification seem appealing at the same time the district was discussing this "grow your own" strategy. According to state Commissioner of Education Dianna Wentzell, there are four alternative routes to certification for teachers in the state besides its accredited schools of education, and a fifth, called the Relay Graduate School of Education, is up for state Board of Education approval at its next meeting on Wednesday.

"One of the things I'm very enthusiastic about is the potential for increasing our minority teacher capacity," Wentzell said. "Right now, of about 150,000 teachers in the state, only about 8.3 (percent) are African-American or Hispanic."

Wentzell said the importance of diversifying classrooms is so students of color and white students alike can identify role models of color and to see people of color in positions of authority in their own schools.

Crocco said that many of the district's paraprofessionals already have at least a bachelor's degree, but the costly certification process poses barriers for those paraprofessionals and district staff, many of whom are black or Hispanic, preventing them from becoming certified to have a classroom of their own.

"Garth introduced the district to the Relay Graduate School, and what we engaged in them is trying to see if there was any interest in there from our internal individuals who had a bachelor's degree and were seeking a route into the classroom," Crocco said. "It's one of a menu of different things we're exploring to grow our own."

Harries recently said he "absolutely" endorses the Relay program, "but it's not the entire answer either."

"I want to prepare New Haven staff to become teachers, and here's a good program that is well-regarded in other jurisdictions," he said.

Without state board approval, the Relay program is legally not allowed to operate as a certification program. However, district staff have been meeting with Relay officials in New Haven since at least June. Wentzell said the function of these meetings is not for certification; they're professional development meetings that are intended to gauge community interest before the state Board of Education takes a vote.

Rebecca Good, the program director of Relay Connecticut, said the program has provided candidates the opportunity to "practice with teachers," experience she believes is "very beneficial."

According to statistics gathered by the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, 151 of the state's 2,092 teacher preparation program graduates came from alternative routes to certification programs in 2012. …

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