A teacher in a classroom at Diloretto Elementary and Middle School in New Britain, a school with a large number of English learners CTMirror file photo
A teacher in a classroom at Diloretto Elementary and Middle School in New Britain. CTMirror file photo

Connecticut schools have one of the best student-teacher ratios in the nation, yet teachers make up a lower percentage of overall school staff than in all but a handful of states because the state also has a large number of instructional aides and non-teaching personnel.

That data is reported in the Condition of Education 2017 report issued by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.  The report covers public, private and charter schools, as well as colleges and universities.

Among other notable findings, the report shows an above-average gap in high school graduation rates between white and minority students in Connecticut. Homelessness among Connecticut students is the lowest in the country, however.

The state also is projected to see the largest decrease in public school enrollment of any other state over the next decade.

Low percentage of teachers, high percentage of aides

Connecticut was one of six states where teachers made up less than 45 percent of total school staff in 2014. Yet the state’s teacher-to-pupil ratio is also one of the highest in the country. There is one teacher for about 13 every students, according to the Department of Education’s statistics.

Morgaen Donaldson, director of the Center for Education Policy Analysis at the University of Connecticut, said the state’s many districts have a lot to do with the low percentage of teachers.

“We have quite a lot of districts, especially for our size. These districts have to provide all the services for the students,” Donaldson said.

More districts means more administrators and non-teaching employees are fleshing out school staffs. Donaldson noted the states with the highest percentages of teachers (South Carolina, Nevada and Rhode Island) have significantly fewer districts than Connecticut and therefore, fewer administrative roles.

Connecticut also has one of the highest percentages of instructional aides. Instructional aides, or paraprofessionals, are non-certified school employees that assist with tutoring, managing classrooms and instructional support services, among other duties. About one in six school staff members in the state are instructional aides.

A lower percentage of teachers isn’t a bad thing, Donaldson says. “Connecticut invests in education. It’s invested in paying for teachers but also invested in paying for these non-teaching personnel to really try to deliver a great education for all children… You can’t have a good education on the cheap,” Donaldson said.

Donaldson said in many cases, instructional aides are paired one-on-one with a special needs student, leading to a higher number of aides.

Nation’s biggest enrollment drop projected

The state is projected to see the nation’s largest decrease in public school enrollment between 2014 and 2026, losing almost 15 percent of its school population. New Hampshire and Maine join Connecticut as the only states projected to see a decrease greater than 10 percent.

Recent Census estimates showed a population decline of 8,300 in Connecticut in 2016, the third largest number behind only Illinois and West Virginia.

Homelessness among students lowest in the nation

Connecticut had the lowest rate of homelessness among public school students in the 14-15 school year, according to the report. Connecticut was one of three states, along with New Jersey and Rhode Island, where less than 1 percent of public school students were identified as homeless.

In recent years, Connecticut’s been below the national average for overall homelessness. The rates for student homelessness have been consistently low since 2009, according to previous years’ reports.

Connecticut above average for graduation gaps

Connecticut ranks 14th for graduation gaps between white and black students and seventh for gaps between white and Hispanic students for the 2014-15 school year.

While those gaps shrank in recent years, the figures for 2014-2015 remain very similar to those in 2013-2014, with a 15 percent gap between white and black students and an 18 percent gap between white and Hispanic students.

Leave a comment