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CT Invests in Dual Credit, Feds Expand Free Meals, New Haven + Quinnipiac Work on Teacher Shortage

CT Invests in Dual Credit Partnerships

On Tuesday, Governor Ned Lamont and Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker announced a $3.8 million effort to expand dual credit offerings in high schools across 89 Connecticut school districts. The Dual Credit Expansion Grant Program will leverage partnerships with local colleges and universities to help more high schoolers earn college credits prior to graduation. These opportunities can provide students with a head start in their postsecondary experiences. They can also be a measure of academic prowess for college applicants, as an alternative to traditional test-based metrics like the SAT and ACT. Jessika Harkay's coverage for the CT Mirror further notes that the majority of the new grant funds are designated for districts serving high percentages of students of color.

A list of the grant applications can be found here.

New Federal Program Expands Free School Meals

Exciting news! The US Department of Agriculture announced yesterday that it is updating a "Community Eligibility Provision" (CEP) for free school meals—which will result in free breakfast and lunches for all enrolled students in 3,000 additional school districts across the country. CEP allows schools and districts to qualify for free meals for all enrolled students if a specific percentage participate in income-based federal assistance. Under the previous threshold, 40% of all students had to be eligible before a school or district would receive meals for the whole student population. That threshold has now been lowered to 25%.

The news is timely. Here in Connecticut, Governor Lamont and Commissioner Russell-Tucker just announced last month that the state would deploy American Rescue Plan funding to expand its own free school meals program for the 2023-24 school year. The state effort—which follows significant back-and-forth on funding allocations during the last legislative session—specifically targets "non-CEP schools." Coupled with the now-expanding pool of schools and districts eligible for the CEP, this could mark a huge shift for many Connecticut students. All children need nourishment as a precondition to learning.

New Haven Partners with Quinnipiac in Wake of Teacher Shortage

According to the New Haven Register, the New Haven Public School District is having to get creative when it comes to staffing its classrooms amidst a teacher shortage—turning to science students at Quinnipiac University. Of the 77 current classroom teacher vacancies across the district, 18 are for science teachers. Rather than relying on short-and long-term substitutes, the district is hoping to rely on a "special corps" of undergraduate and graduate science students who have meaningful content knowledge and can provide continuity over a semester. The students who qualify will complete a background check, onboarding, and professional development.

It's a new model, and, if it proves successful, the district hopes to apply it to other subjects, too. This comes as the Connecticut State Department of Education and legislative leaders seek to address widespread shortages and a challenging pipeline for new teachers to join the profession. While news about innovative programs like this one is welcome, we hope to see quick action in 2024, and a long-term plan to sustain and build on Connecticut’s teaching workforce.

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