Author Archives: Woody

Connecticut Laser-Focused on Educator Diversity

Since 2017, school districts in Connecticut have hired more than 1,900 educators of color, surpassing the goal set by the State Board of Education in its five-year strategic plan.

According to the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE), a wide range of evidence supports the benefits of a diverse educator workforce. Benefits include gains in student achievement as well as lower dropout rates and higher college admissions.

Multi-Pronged Approach

Since achieving its goal, the CSDE has been implementing a multi-pronged approach to further diversify the educator workforce in the state’s public schools. Key initiatives include the following:

A Guidebook for Hiring and Selection prepared by the CSDE provides support and guidance to help school districts increase the racial, ethnic, and linguistic diversity of their educator workforces. 

An Enhanced Educator Certification Reciprocity Policy streamlines the processing of certification of educators who hold valid and active out-of-state certification. This is expediting efforts to recruit diverse, high-quality educators from Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia. 

NextGen Educators gives undergraduate educator candidates the opportunity to work in school districts to gain valuable experience and gives districts immediate access to new talent while addressing staffing shortages.

Educators Rising introduces middle- and high-school students to careers in education. In the 2021-22 school year, the program has nearly 500 students enrolled in clubs and courses in 22 schools in 19 mostly urban districts, which have high numbers of students of color. 

The Male Educator Network (MEN) initiative, a subset of Educators Rising, focuses solely on young men of color with an interest in careers in education. Currently, there are two pilot sites located at E. Hartford High School and New Britain High School.

TEACH Connecticut supports aspiring educators with free, one-on-one support, financial aid resources, information on educator-preparation programs, and more. In year three of the program, TEACH CT supported more than 500 applicants, 41 percent of whom identify as people of color and 39 percent of whom want to teach in a subject shortage area.

Connecticut Troops to Teachers aims to address teacher shortage areas, increase the number of male teachers of color, and reduce veteran unemployment.

The Minority Teacher Recruitment Policy Oversight Council is developing strategies to attract middle- and high-school students to careers in education, encourage college students of color to enroll in educator-preparation programs, recruit educators from other states, and more. 

Virtual Career Fairs are held in partnership with Regional Education Service Centers (RESCs). Invitations are sent to certified teachers of color who are not currently teaching, recent graduates of Connecticut educator-preparation programs, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Hispanic-Serving institutions. 

RESC Regional Consortia enable diverse local educators to convene and develop workforce diversity plans that address attracting, recruiting, hiring, supporting, and retaining educators.

The EdKnowledge Online Repository hosts promising practices and models of success to retain educators of color. 

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2 Scholars Honored, Sen. McCrory Named Diversity Champion

The Alma Exley Scholarship Program honored two UConn students and cited State Senator Douglas McCrory as its first Diversity Champion in a virtual celebration on April 5 attended by more than 50 supporters, public officials, and educators including previous scholarship recipients.

Receiving scholarships were Saraya Lewis, a junior secondary English major, and Tamashi Hettiarachchi, a master’s student in chemistry education. Read more.

Saraya Lewis
Tamashi Hettiarachchi

The Alma Exley Scholarship Program honored Senator McCrory as its first Diversity Champion, in recognition of his accomplishments in advancing educator diversity in Connecticut’s public schools.

State Senator Douglas McCrory

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, a 1998 recipient of the Alma Exley Scholarship, congratulated Ms. Lewis and Ms. Hettiarachchi by video.

Dr. Miguel Cardona

Long-Time Advocate

Senator McCrory has long been an advocate for greater diversity in the educator workforce in Connecticut. He has been an eloquent spokesperson for educator diversity.

He has represented Hartford, Bloomfield, and Windsor in the State Senate since 2018. Previously, he served six terms in the state House of Representatives.

He is the father of important legislation to bolster minority teacher recruitment and retention. Last year, he led bipartisan approval of legislation implementing a variety of initiatives to promote greater educator diversity.

Zoom session brings together supports and public officials.

In 2019, as Chairman of the Education Committee, he was instrumental in crafting and passing legislation implementing the inclusion of African American and Latino American studies – first in the nation — and he continues to work to update and improve the state’s school curriculum.

Diversity Initiatives

Over the years, Senator McCrory has supported a variety of diversity initiatives. He was instrumental in:

  • The creation of the Teacher Recruitment Policy Oversight Council. The council is developing strategies for educator diversity and cultural competency instruction for teachers and future teachers.
  • Legislation ensuring fairness in teacher certification and to streamline certification of bilingual teachers.
  • Supporting a law several years ago to require school districts to hire at least 250 new minority teachers and administrators per year. Over the past five years, school districts hired more than 1,900 new minority educators.

         An educator for 30 years, he has served as a teacher and administrator in Hartford Public Schools and currently is in a leadership position at the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC).

 

Two Alma Exley Scholars Are On Their Way To Harvard

Hearty congratulations to Vernon-James Riley and Justis López. These Alma Exley Scholars have been admitted into the Doctor of Education Leadership program at Harvard University.

Justis López, left, and Vernon-James Riley meet up at orientation at Harvard.

We honored Mr. Riley in 2008 when he was an undergraduate at Yale. Mr. López was our honoree in 2015, when he was a student in the five-year Bachelor’s/Master’s Program at the University of Connecticut.

“I am extremely excited to pursue this long-time goal of mine,” Mr. Riley told me. “As a system-level leader in education, I commit to grounding myself in my values, honoring the uniqueness of each school community’s needs and its leader’s vision, and leveraging system-wide the tried-and-true principles of data-informed instruction, all in service of student wellness and achievement.

“I believe that the Ed.L.D. program of study will further develop my values, knowledge, and skills, empowering me to effectively lead and transform for the large-scale impact I know is possible.”

Vernon-James Riley leading session at educational conference.

Born and raised in Harlem, New York City, Mr. Riley resides in the Washington, D.C., area where he serves as the Vice Provost of National School Leader Programs at the Relay Graduate School of Education. Previously, he served as Principal at North Star Academy Charter School in Newark, New Jersey, a National Blue Ribbon School and part of the Uncommon Schools network.

He received a B.A. in American Studies from Yale University, an M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction from the College of Education at Michigan State University, an Ed.M. in Organizational Leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University, and an Ed.M. from Relay Graduate School of Education. 

Creating Radical Spaces of Joy

“I cried when I got the acceptance call from our professor,” Mr. López said. “It still feels like a dream or movie. I am incredibly excited to join this community.

“My goal in this program is to create radical spaces of joy, love, healing, peace, and possibility for people to reach the best version of themselves so that they may flourish and thrive, especially for the communities that the Alma Exley scholarship program supports.”

Justis López at Harvard

Justis López (also known as DJ Faro) is the founder and chief enthusiasm officer (CEO) of Just Experience LLC, a startup company that strives to educate, entertain, and empower communities across the world. As a community organizer, he focuses on ways to create spaces of radical joy, justice, healing through Hip-Hop and the arts.

He is pursuing his second master’s degree, in education entrepreneurship, at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is focusing on creating Joy Labs with Project Happyvism.

Previously, he served as the Director of Alumni Affairs at the Council for Opportunity in Education in Washington D.C., assisting with fostering community for the national TRIO programs for low-income and first-generation college students. He began his career as a social studies teacher at his alma mater, Manchester High School in Connecticut and has taught high school and middle school in the Bronx, N.Y.

Transformative Leaders

The program is a cohort-based, three-year, fully funded program, which includes the opportunity to take classes across Harvard’s graduate schools in the second year,” Mr. López said. “In the third year, I will participate in a residency with an education organization aligned to my goals.”

According to Harvard, the doctoral program is designed to produce transformative leaders in preK–12 education. Students in the multidisciplinary program take courses in the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the Harvard Business School, and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

What an exceptional opportunity for these young men to receive a well-rounded education giving them deep insights into the worlds of education, business, and government. I’m sure they will emerge from this experience ready to assume even greater responsibilities and have an even bigger impact at the local, state, or national level.

Harvard says that graduates of its education leadership program have become superintendents of schools, chief academic officers, and presidents of foundations and other nonprofit organizations. Graduates also have gone on to become state education commissioners or policy advisors to senior government officials as well as social entrepreneurs and innovators.

This is such an exciting opportunity for Messrs. Riley and López. They already have had a significant impact in the field of education, and I expect them to reach even greater heights in their remarkable careers in the future.

  • Woody Exley