On top of the cost of their degrees, aspiring educators also face the fees that come with Praxis testing, edTPA, background checks and fingerprinting, and state certification. Those fees add up, placing additional obstacles to getting a teaching job for many who have already received their degrees and are eager to enter the classroom.
At a news conference at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven today, state officials announced that they’re taking action to reduce those barriers by defraying certification-related testing costs for aspiring educators in Connecticut. Governor Lamont and Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker have committed $2 million dollars of federal, state-level reserve American Rescue Plan Act, Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP-ESSER) funding over a two-year period.
“Our administration has made it a priority to ensure that we maintain and continue to recruit a high quality and diverse educator workforce in Connecticut,” Lamont said. “This investment will ensure more aspiring educators–especially minority educators and educators who strive to work in our urban districts–are able to pursue lifelong and rewarding careers in education.”
“Answering the call to teach is not merely the degree, it’s the hours spent shadowing other teachers, student teaching, completing tests required for certification, and the certification application itself. All of these can delay or be a barrier to employment as a teacher,” said Russell-Tucker.
“This investment has the strong potential to impact the recruitment and retention of students in every teacher preparation program in Connecticut,” Dr. Stephen Hegedus, dean of the College of Education at Southern, said. “I am very pleased that we can offer our students the support they need to offset the costs of becoming a teacher in the future.”
Daylan Greer, who is working in the New Haven Public Schools while completing his teacher preparation program at Southern, said he has dreamed of becoming a teacher for more than 20 years. He instead became the pastor of a local congregation, but is now close to becoming a certified educator.
“This funding will alleviate the financial burdens for myself and my colleagues—and all aspiring teachers,” he said.
New Haven Superintendent of Schools Dr. Iline Tracey celebrated the move to ease the financial burden on aspiring educators but urged the state to go further.
“We need to get rid of the testing for our teachers. They’ve gone through four years of school; they’ve proven themselves through performance assessments. We’ve seen educators who pass the tests but struggle in the classroom,” she said. “Let our people prosper. These tests are impacting our aspiring minority educators more than others.”
CEA has also urged legislators to reconsider the value of testing.
In testimony before the legislature’s Education Committee this March, CEA President Kate Dias told lawmakers that testing programs are artificial barriers to entering the teaching profession that need to be reexamined.
“While some may find success on these tests, myself included, they are not the sole means to determine content mastery,” she said. “We know standardized testing to be racially biased and suspect, so why should we rely on this barrier to career entry? Certification already requires rigorous academic training and degrees. Educators must have a bachelor’s degree to establish academic ability and begin teaching and then must obtain a master’s degree to maintain certification. Testing agencies make big money off these tests. Aspiring and potential educators do not need them to demonstrate content mastery. I strongly encourage you to abandon this outdated and racially biased reliance on standardized testing.”
Speaking at today’s announcement, Education Committee Co-Chair Rep. Bobby Sanchez, in reply to Tracey, said, “I don’t like testing. You touched on EdTPA, which is another thing I have concerns with. It makes it really tough on students of color. I know the State Department of Education is going to be doing a survey and look into what it takes to get certified in Connecticut. We want quality, but we want to make it a little easier.”
The funding to defray certification-related testing costs will be dispersed to each of the educator preparation programs across the state that opt into the program and will be administered by the Connecticut State Department of Education’s Talent Office. The Talent Office will convene a meeting with education preparation programs in the coming weeks detailing the process to apply for and disperse these funds.