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CT student body continues to diversify, but education workforce falls behind

A third-grade student reads to the rest of her class at Beecher Hills Elementary School on Aug. 19, 2022, in Atlanta. For decades, there has been a clash between two schools of thought on how to best teach children to read, with passionate backers on each side of the so-called reading wars. But the approach gaining momentum lately in American classrooms is the so-called science of reading. (AP Photo/Ron Harris, File)
Ron Harris
A third-grade student reads to the rest of her class.

More than half of Connecticut’s public school students are kids of color, but that diversity is not reflected in their teachers.

According to Education Reform Now, a national organization with a Connecticut chapter, teachers of color make up only 11% of the state educator workforce. Fifty-two percent of Connecticut students are kids of color.

ERN Executive Director Amy Dowell said it's important for students of color to have a teacher that looks like them, but it's also important for white students to have teachers that don't look like them.

“It's important that every student has a role model that is perhaps a different background, different socioeconomic background, different racial background,” Dowell said. “It creates a more well-rounded student, it creates a positive environment in schools. And there has been research that it has academic benefits, as well as curbing some heavy handed behavioral interventions.”

Dowell said a council convened by the state Department of Education is exploring ways to encourage educators of color to join the workforce.

One of the things they’re looking at is how teachers get certified.

“We want to make sure that it's a more straightforward process, more affordable process and that we're opening pathways for paraeducators and reciprocity within states and second career professionals to become educators as well,” Dowell said.

The percentage of non-white kids in the state has increased from 46.5% in 2017 to 52.5% in 2023.

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.