CEA staff testified before the State Board of Education (SBE) today on two issues important to teachers and public schools: professional development and teacher preparation/certification.
CEA, which is now a State Department of Education designated provider of PD for members, schools, and districts, served on a task force that recommended changes to professional development legislation, allowing districts greater flexibility to offer more meaningful PD instead of strictly compliance-based training.
Testifying on some of the recommended changes was CEA Teacher Development Specialist Kate Field, who applauded the collaboration among the Education Commissioner, State Department of Education, and stakeholders to streamline Connecticut’s PD requirements and emphasize “true professional learning rather than mere compliance.” Because of this work, Field said, “It is far more likely teachers will have time to participate in valuable professional learning experiences that will make a difference in the classroom.”
She explained, “Teaching is one of the most difficult professions in the world. Teachers today are faced with demands most of us cannot fully comprehend. They are expected to narrow the achievement gap with dwindling resources, ensure students feel safe in an ever-more volatile world, differentiate instruction for students with diverse language and/or learning needs, promote empathy in a deeply fractured society, and keep pace with rapid advances in educational technology. And these are only a few of the enormous challenges teachers face. Ensuring our teachers have access to high-quality professional learning carefully designed to help them meet these challenges has never been more important.”
Field introduced CEA’s new Professional Learning Academy, which offers free or low-cost PD aligned with Connecticut’s Professional Learning Standards. The Academy’s staff works closely with PDECs to customize offerings in a way that meets the specific needs of every district’s teachers and their students.
Preserving Quality Teacher Certification Standards
Also testifying today was CEA Education Issues Specialist Michele Ridolfi O’Neill, who asked the SBE to avoid creating a two-tiered system of teachers and teacher preparation programs that would sacrifice quality and diminish the value of a teacher’s certification.
Teacher shortages and the difficulty attracting and retaining minority teachers are a real challenge for public education. In response, many charter schools—which are woefully understaffed when it comes to certified teachers—have long sought to relax the requirements for teacher certification in order to come into compliance with state regulations. Some have created their own pathways to certification, which are far less rigorous than those established for other public school teachers—and which threaten to send unqualified, unprepared teaching candidates into schools that receive public funding.
“We believe it makes sense to build upon the proven quality of current teacher preparation programs rather than take significant risks with untested third-party training programs,” O’Neill said. “A two-tiered system of preparation would not serve Connecticut schools well. Our concern is not only for the potential teachers going through such preparation programs but also for their students. Such third-party training programs often seek to increase the number of new teachers in our neediest districts, which is a worthy goal, but could result in a concentration of underprepared and ill-equipped teachers serving students in the schools where experience and preparedness matter most.”
CEA’s work in addressing minority teacher recruitment includes
- CEA’s Ethnic Minority Affairs Commission (EMAC) and Educators for Diversity Caucus, which help recruit and retain teachers of color
- Representation on the Minority Teacher Recruitment Task Force
- Annually presenting at LEARN and CREC’s minority teacher recruitment program “Pathways to Teaching” conference for middle and high school students who wish to become educators
- Partnering with Leadership in Diversity at UConn, for college students of color primarily seeking teacher certification
- Collaborating in Bridgeport for a minority teacher recruitment planning and implementation grant that provided training for paraprofessionals to become teachers