NextGen Educators Creates an Innovative Approach That Provides Districts With Immediate Access To New Talent While Allowing College Students To Gain Classroom Experience
HARTFORD, CT – Governor Ned Lamont on Friday announced that the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) and Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) are partnering in an initiative to launch NextGen Educators, a talent pipeline that will bring highly motivated college students from CCSU seeking education degrees into Connecticut’s K-12 classrooms to ease pressures on current teachers and contribute to the success of students. The initiative is designed to be highly flexible to provide future educators with experience and mentorship while addressing districts most pressing staffing needs without placing an added burden on administrators or teachers.
“Connecticut’s public schools are among the best in the nation, but there’s more that we can do to close achievement gaps so that we can provide more of our youngest students with the tools they need to achieve careers in leading fields when they become adults,” Governor Lamont said. “Creating a pipeline like this that encourages our college students to explore careers in K-12 education will not only increase the amount of talent in our schools, but it will also greatly enhance the diversity of those who teach within our school system. The NextGen Educators initiative is a direct investment in the classroom and in student success.”
NextGen Educators will place a special emphasis on attracting candidates from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds that complement CSDE’s commitment to increase the racial, ethnic, and linguistic diversity of Connecticut’s educator workforce.
As CSDE continues to provide resources to encourage more diversity in school districts around the state to diminish the gap between educators and students of color, the number of minority educators in Connecticut’s schools has increased steadily since 2015. The CSDE Talent Office team has developed a strategy profile with targets, measurable outcomes, and established metrics specifically designed to meet its stated goal of increasing the number of educators of color from 8.3 percent in 2015-16 to 10 percent by 2021 (i.e. roughly 1,000 new certified educators of color by next year). In the 2019-20 school year, teachers of color represented 9.6 percent of the state’s educator workforce.
“NextGen Educators places highly motivated college students in the classroom under the guidance of dedicated role models to provide support while gaining experiential learning on their pathway to a rewarding career in the profession,” Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona said. “In the short-term, it will help districts struggling to fill current staffing shortages meet their immediate needs and make connections with potential talent eager to contribute to student success. In the long-term, it advances our goals of filling persistent shortage areas and building an educator workforce that reflects the full diversity of our students. This innovative pipeline benefits districts, educators and aspiring educators by cultivating the next generation of great teachers and leaders for our highest-need areas and school systems to ensure the best possible outcomes for all of our students – now and into the future.”
Tomorrow’s Educators in Today’s Classrooms
To ensure more consistent support for teachers and students alike, this program will assign a pair of NextGen Educators who will each provide two to three days of support per classroom. Unlike student teachers, the NextGen Educators will not earn credit for this program. Instead school districts will agree upon an appropriate payment for their service. The State of Connecticut is funding necessary background checks for these NextGen Educators to further ease the burden on districts who will determine how to best allocate their NextGen Educators – from leading small group instruction under supervision and developing lesson plans, to facilitating the use of new technologies for online learning or providing personalized support for students.
“We are very excited to partner with the state Department of Education on this initiative,” Dr. Zulma Toro, president of CCSU, said. “CCSU has a long, successful history in preparing educators for Connecticut’s communities since our founding more than 170 years ago. The NextGen Educators program ensures we are responsive to the needs of individual school districts and the state while our own students are provided with experiences that will guide them to becoming effective, successful teachers.”
“The concept for NextGen Educators has been in development for some time, but the pandemic really accelerated the need for more student and teacher support,” Dr. Kimberly Kostelis, dean of the CCSU School of Education and Professional Studies, said. “This collaboration really is a win-win-win for CCSU students, Connecticut school districts, and K-12 students and teachers.”
Mentorship from Seasoned Educators
CSDE is providing each NextGen Educator with a professional mentor – an experienced educator who will share their knowledge and advice. The Black Leaders and Administrators Consortium (BLAC) and Committed to Achieve Latino Advancement and Supports (CALAS) are working with CSDE and CCSU to provide NextGen Educators with these mentors. While classroom teachers will provide valuable mentoring for their NextGen Educators, they won’t be burdened with formal evaluation or administrative responsibilities. Serving as mentors, career teachers will share their expertise with NextGen Educators, allowing mentors to give back and elevate their profession while ensuring Connecticut’s entire education ecosystem will benefit from the collective expertise of experienced educators.
“We are grateful for the dedication of Connecticut’s expert educators who have committed to giving back to the profession they love by mentoring the teachers of tomorrow,” Shauna Tucker, CSDE’s chief talent officer, said. “By establishing these important connections, our NextGen Educators will be able to get a head start on building their professional networks while they are still in school.”
Pilot Program Live in Bristol Schools
The pilot program is underway in the Bristol Public Schools system, which includes six K-5 elementary schools and two K-8 schools. Last week, eighteen NextGen Educators from the classes of 2022 and 2023 at CCSU began orientation. NextGen Educators will be supporting classrooms both in-person and virtually through the end of the 2020-2021 academic year.
“When CCSU and the State Department of Education approached us with this program, we knew immediately that it was something we wanted to pilot in our schools,” Dr. Catherine Carbone, superintendent of Bristol Public Schools, said. “Not only are NextGen Educators providing immediate support to our teachers and students, but this partnership will be an additional path to establish relationships with preservice teachers and allow us to quickly fill needed teaching positions with candidates that know our expectations and embrace our community.”