Connecticut Educators Concerned About Teaching Standards

A group of educators in Connecticut says the state is lowering the bar to meet the demand for new teachers.

Friday, the Connecticut chapter of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education met at the state capitol in Hartford to voice their concern for higher standards in K-12 teacher education preparation.

“There’s a clear need to continue to raise the quality of the teachers we’re preparing,” said AACTE President and the Dean of Education of Central Connecticut State University, Michael Alfano.

Members of the group say the state is trying to fill a teacher shortage with graduates of fast-track teaching programs.

“There’s a temptation I think to address long-term problems with short-term solutions,” said Fairfield University Dean of Education, Bob Hannafin.

Mary Nelson left her corporate job to become a teacher. As a traditional education student, she had to complete two years of clinical experience before she was even allowed to student-teach. She believes more of her colleagues are opting for alternative programs, like Teach for America, instead.

“Particularly in high needs areas, urban schools, a desire for fast-tracking teachers,” Nelson said. “These candidates have a few months over the summer, and then they’re thrown into the classroom and as a result they don’t last in our school systems. There’s extremely high turnover.”

It’s the students who suffer the most from these fast-track programs said Alfano.

“The greatest impact is the quality of the teacher’s preparation on student learning,” he explained.

The AACTE represents all of the Connecticut colleges and universities with an education department. This is the first year the group has met at the state capitol. The group says it’s not asking for any specific legislation, but rather collaboration with state lawmakers.

“We have a lot to share, and we really want to be at the table as opposed to being legislated at,” Alfano pointed out.

Teach for America sent a statement to NBC Connecticut that reads in part: "TFA believes there are multiple pathways to the classroom that result in high quality educators. Research has shown that our teachers are having a positive impact..."

The AACTE says they recognize the need that fast-track programs fill and say there’s a place for them, too. However, as the main stakeholders, preparing 90% of Connecticut’s teachers, they say their experience suggests standards need to be set for teacher preparation before they're allowed to be at the head of the classroom.

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