Education Commissioner is 2024 Diversity Champion

Connecticut Commissioner of Education Charlene Russell-Tucker has been honored as the 2024 Diversity Champion by the Alma Exley Scholarship Program. She was recognized for her leadership in implementing a broad array of initiatives that have significantly increased the number of persons of color in the state’s educator workforce.

She was recognized at a virtual celebration held on Zoom to introduce the 2024 Alma Exley Scholars, Andrew Amaya, a student at Central Connecticut State University, and Brianna Bobo, a student at the University of Connecticut. Read more on the News page.

Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker

Commissioner Russell-Tucker is the third Diversity Champion the program has honored. The previous honorees are State Senator Douglas McCrory, 2022, and State Representative Robert Sánchez, 2023.

A Priority Focus

In accepting the award, Commissioner Russell-Tucker congratulated Mr. Amaya and Ms. Bobo and said: “Increasing diversity in the Connecticut educator workforce is one of the pillars of our work at the Department and certainly is a priority focus for me.”

She called the scholarship program “such an important part of this work” and added, “This award highlights the memory of Alma Exley and the incredible work she did throughout her life and career and serves as a living testament to her legacy.”

Many Diversity Initiatives

The Commissioner highlighted the results of some of the many programs implemented under her leadership to diversify the educator workforce.

  • Some 175 school districts have welcomed 977 new educators from other states who are working in Connecticut because of enhanced reciprocity in certification.
  • Aspiring teachers are getting help with licensing and testing fees through the allocation of $2 million in COVID federal funding to educator-preparation programs.
  • Twenty-nine students have received scholarships in the first round of a diversity scholarship program for students from priority school districts who are enrolled in educator-preparation programs.
  • Since 2020, more than 230 aspiring educators have received financial support while being placed in public-school classrooms in the NextGen program.
  • More than 500 high school students  taking courses in the Educators Rising program to prepare them for teaching careers.

Better Academic Performance

“Why is this so important?” Commissioner Russell-Tucker asked. “We know from the research that all students—especially students of color—have better academic performance, improved test scores, higher graduation rates, and a greater sense of belonging and motivation when they are taught by educators who look like them.”

From the 2015-2016 school year to the present, educators of color have increased from 8.3 percent to 11.7 percent of the Connecticut educator workforce, which translates to more than 6,000 educators of color.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” she said, indicating that students of color account for 53 percent of the state’s student body. This is equivalent to more than 275,000 students out of a total of 512,652.”

“The need to create equity of access to a world-class educational system that supports all our learners is very clear,” the Commissioner added. “I’m so grateful for the work the Alma Exley Scholarship is doing to bring more educators of color into the pipeline and ultimately into the classroom.”