Educator Quality and Retention In the News Yesterday, Education Week covered new data from the National Center for Education Statistics, which shows that two-thirds of public schools report a lack of qualified candidates as a primary staffing challenge. The data point raises questions about whether states might be increasing the number of available educators without maintaining high enough quality standards.
But retention of educators is another systemic issue contributing to shortages, one that plays out at a local level here in Connecticut. On Thursday, the Bridgeport Education Association voted to ratify a new four-year contract that includes a minimum starting salary of $50,000 for teachers. The salary change is being celebrated by Bridgeport officials as a win that will hopefully contribute to higher rates of retention. However, the CT Post’s coverage also cites data from the Connecticut Education Association that still puts Bridgeport’s minimum salary as the lowest in its county.
Over the course of the contract, which would be in effect through 2028, the increase is expected to cost an additional $21.8 million, and it will be offset by increases to teacher contributions covering insurance. The City Council has 30 days to reject the contract before it becomes binding.
Case Study: The Pentagon’s Schools
A must-read article from The New York Times explores some of the attributes of one of the highest performing school systems in the country, which is run by the Defense Department. That school system educates 66,000 children of military members, and data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) show it topping the charts for academic outcomes. According to the coverage, Department of Defense Schools had the best NAEP results in the country for Black and Hispanic students. Moreover, while most American schools have faced pandemic learning losses, the Department of Defense schools have "managed to avoid widespread pandemic losses." Important features of the system include:
Well-funded schools and educators with high rates of retention;
Student populations with access to housing, health care, and employed parents; and
A methodical rollout of curricular changes, similar to the Common Core, that has been coordinated since 2015, including teacher training, logistical planning, and budgeting.
“The approach is meant to guard against… ‘pockets of excellence,’” the article explains, meaning that, “a teacher who helps students soar in one classroom, while an instructor down the hall struggles.” It’s a worthy case study that bears consideration.
Conservative Hate Group Comes to Connecticut
With school board races across the state next month, education policy issues continue to divide candidates along partisan lines. Throwback to this April story from Education Week, which describes efforts in states across the country to require school board candidates to declare a party affiliation. The article puts Connecticut in a group of only four states (alongside Alabama, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania) to require partisan school board races, typically with one vote majority. “The trickling down of national debates on identity, race, and gender has also shifted a focus away from pure policy”—the story notes, citing the recent prevalence of divisive conversations in these races over topics like Critical Race Theory (CRT).
Just this week, the Hartford Courant and CT Insider each covered an upcoming event for the conservative group, Moms for Liberty, which will be hosted in Avon, Connecticut on October 21st. Labeled as a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Moms for Liberty pushes fanatical views on school boards—contravening COVID safety measures, banning books, limiting discussions about LGBTQ inclusion, and opposing CRT. The Avon Democratic Town Committee has called the group's rhetoric, "homophobic, transphobic, racist, and xenophobic vitriol." Avon Dems are planning to rally outside the event to protest the group’s divisive goals.
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