EDITORIAL: Connecticut considers new ways to fill teaching vacancies

EDITORIAL: Connecticut considers new ways to fill teaching vacancies


During the recent annual summer retreat by the state Board of Education, members discussed a persistent problem: the hundreds of teaching positions that go unfilled each year because of a lack of qualified candidates. One way of solving the problem is to change the requirements needed to become a certified teacher. As the Connecticut Mirror reported, it involves “creating new non-traditional pathways to becoming a teacher, and helping to bring prestige back to the profession.”

As state Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell noted, the certification regulation book is 144 pages long “and a significant amount of the regulations are about how to keep people out. It has disproportionately kept out some of the folks that we need.” The plan is to seek legislative changes to help ease what some consider “overregulation.”

Plans are to pay particular attention to teaching subjects that school districts have found difficult to fill. Those are bilingual, math, science and special education. Sarah Barzee, chief talent officer with the education department, said the aim is to develop new ways of getting into the profession to help attract a more diverse group of teaching candidates.

Bilingual education serves as an example of how serious the situation has become. As the Mirror reported, there has been a 60 percent drop in the number of teachers working in bilingual classrooms in the state since 1999-2000, a situation that is likely to get worse considering that in 2015 nearly half of all bilingual teachers were eligible to retire over the following five years. Supply is not keeping up with demand.

The approach officials are considering will take some convincing. Efforts to promote non-traditional approaches to earning teaching certificates will require overcoming the resistance of unions and colleges.

Teaching is among the most honorable of professions. Reaching out to prospective candidates about job needs and finding new ways to prepare them makes a lot of sense. It’s a progressive approach worth supporting.

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