Connecticut launches NextGen Educators to support, diversify educator workforce

A girl wearing a mask raises her hand in class.
Photo credit Annie Beauregard/GettyImages
By WTIC NewsTalk 1080

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTIC Radio)—The State Department of Education has partnered with Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) and Bristol Public Schools to launch NextGen Educators in an effort to support public school educators, to offer college students classroom experience and to increase diversity in the state's educator workforce.

NextGen Educators is an initiative that brings college students seeking education degrees into Connecticut's K-12 classrooms. Education officials describe the program as a talent pipeline that will ease pressing staffing needs in school districts and contribute to the success of future educators.

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, he said the program advances the state's goals of filling persistent shortage areas and building a much more diverse educator workforce.

Adequate staffing, Cardona said, is needed in order for the mitigation strategies laid out over the summer to be effective.

"Some of the decisions to close schools for a short period of time were based on more staffing issues than anything else. So, we're doing everything we can to provide flexibilities while making sure we maintain a high quality of staffing," Cardona said while in Bristol announcing the launch of NextGen Educators Friday.

According to education officials, the program offers college students that are looking to get a degree in education an opportunity to get classroom experience early on as well as mentorship, networking and professional devevlopment opportunities.

College students in the program will be supporting teachers in the classroom both in-person and virtually, officials said.

The program will place a special emphasis on candidates from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds to increase the racial and ethnic diversity of the state's educator workforce, Cardona said.

For Cardona, addressing staff shortages while also bringing more diverse educators into Connecticut schools is a win-win situation for the state.

The pilot program is underway with 18 NextGen Educators from the classes of 2022 and 2023 at CCSU offering support in classrooms of the Bristol Public Schools system through the end of the 2020-2021 academic year.

"This program will expand in Connecticut," Cardona said, "It will expand in Connecticut because we have the right people making it work."

According to Cardona, schools districts in Newington, Cromwell and Windsor are looking to take on the program next. He said he expects more universities will join as well.