State data shows that minorities make up only 8.9 percent of staff, including teachers, at Connecticut schools. Above, Lincoln Johnson teaches his 9th grade pre-calculous class at Hillhouse High School in New Haven last year. Jacqueline Rabe Thomas /

A typical Latina student in Connecticut might go all through high school without entering a classroom where the teacher shares her culture and, to quote the vernacular, looks like her.

While education leaders acknowledge this ethnic or racial disconnect can diminish this student’s educational experience, the fact remains that minority teachers, especially those of Hispanic backgrounds remain relatively scarce.

In 2018-19, Hispanics comprised only 3.8 percent of state educators. For all minorities, the representation is 8.9 percent.

And this gap is not significantly shrinking, despite far-flung recruitment and other strategies that the state and local districts have employed. The statewide Hispanic teacher percentage has only improved 0.3 points over the last four years according to Edsight, the Connecticut Department of Education data portal.

“We have a problem, the numbers don’t dispute that,” said Tim Sullivan, superintendent of the Hartford-based educational cooperative, the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC) which encompasses 35 districts and operates more than two-dozen magnet schools and other educational programs.

This year, CREC’s 8,500 student population, drawn from both city and suburb, will be 37.6 percent Hispanic and 30.67 percent African-American, but minority educators will amount to about six percent for each group.

However, CREC believes it has found a path to resolving its racial gap dilemma and next fall expects to add at least a dozen newly certified minority teachers to its staff thanks to its investment in a Teacher Residency Program.

This program was designed to tap into the local college graduate population and guide people who want to positively impact their community through a certification process that centers on a paid year of classroom experience sandwiched between two summers of intense instruction.

Sullivan is confident in the positive impact of  CREC’s program and a second cohort of ten people will start next spring. He also hopes this approach will serve as a model for urban districts such as Bridgeport and Hartford.

In Bridgeport, the state’s largest district, about half of the 20,500 students are Hispanic compared to 10.8 percent of the teachers. In Hartford, the  public school enrollment, about 19,800 students, is 54 percent Hispanic but only 11 percent of the teachers share this ancestry. 

Why is the minority teacher disparity a major concern? According to the State Education Research Center, minority students are usually more successful when their teachers reflect their racial or ethnic groups. Moreover, minority teachers are beneficial to all students to help create an awareness of and appreciation for diverse populations.

Students of color need teachers of color who they can relate to and who can understand them at a deeper level, said Camila Bortolleto, campaign managerCT Students for a Dream, an immigrant advocacy group.

“We’ve heard from our own students who express frustration and disappointment that the majority, if not all, of their teachers, have been white.”

Camila Bortolleto, Campaign Manager, CT Students For A Dream

 “We’ve heard from our own students who express frustration and disappointment that the majority, if not all, of their teachers, have been white,” Bartolleto said.

While CREC also sees value in minority students finding someone like them in front of the classroom, it also questions prevailing strategies such as recruiting existing minority teachers from other districts. “We were passing the same people back and forth,” Sullivan said.

The regional district also is not keen on going to other states to attract minority teachers. “We had done a lot of recruiting including flying to Puerto Rico and going to the South, but this was not working,” Sullivan said. “You just can’t go to Virginia and ask people to move to Connecticut; they won’t come,” the superintendent explained.

Moreover, CREC did see itself rising to the challenge that not enough minority teachers were coming out of the state colleges and other alternative paths to meet the need.

State Education Commissioner Dianna R. Wentzell (file photo) Kyle Constable /

This view that what has been tried is not working was underscored by Dianna R. Wentzel, then-education commissioner, who testified to the General Assembly’s education committee in March. She said that “despite our many legislative and departmental efforts over the last three years, we still have yet to achieve 200 new minority educators each year.”

CREC expects to spend $800,000 on its first certification class under its teacher residency program, Sullivan said.  He added, “If you are serious you have to put money into the effort.”

A major cost factor is that participants will be paid $32,000 a year plus full benefits for themselves and their families. “Essentially, they are being paid to student teach,” said Sullivan. There also is a need to pay the professors and master teachers who are involved in the summer classes.

CREC administrators expect the residency program will begin paying dividends next fall when the initial dozen graduates join the staff. “These twelve teachers were trained by us in our schools and know what to expect and know our curriculum.” He said a second cohort of ten individual will begin the process next summer.

CREC’s Teacher Residency Program puts the district into high gear while the state legislature’s plan to solve the problem through a recruitment and retention measure starts to rev up. This measure, SB-1022, was passed and signed into law by Governor Ned Lamont this spring.

SB-1022 was designed by the legislature’s education committee to address some certification issues that inhibited bringing in teachers from some states and to provide financial incentives, such as reduction of student loan debt, for college students to pursue education degrees. There also would be an oversight council and a required annual report.

Theoretically, the outcome would be a minimum of 250 new minority teachers and administrators each year, of which 30 percent should be men.

Many of the bill’s provisions, while ambitious, will not go into effect until the fiscal year 2020. By then, CREC’s initial cohort will already be involved in a full academic year of classroom residency in CREC schools under a master teacher, looking forward to their second summer of instruction, certification and then a guaranteed $47,000 a year jobs within the CREC system.

The regional council had set several pre-requisites for participation in its residency program. Applicants had to hold a bachelor’s degree and “be able to relate our kids,” Sullivan said. They did have to be people of color, the CREC administrator said.

About 70 people applied, 30 were interviewed and 12 accepted, all of whom are residents of the Hartford area.

Typically, applicants did not know they wanted to be teachers until after they graduated from college, Sullivan said. “They had tried other jobs … and decided they wanted to give back to the community,” he explained.

The first group to complete the residency program may not substantially move the needle forward in regard to minority teacher representation at the district but that was not an initial expectation.

“We know it will take time to see meaningful increases in the ratios,” said Aura Alvarado, CREC’s communication and community relations director. “Someone has to try something different,” she said,

Stating that “the State Department of Education has made efforts but with no true outcomes or deliberate action, but a lot of funds spent for sure.”

Join the Conversation


  1. I am an advocate of EEO and having a balanced number of minority teachers. However, no matter the color, race of religion. They must be the very best. Our children deserve that, above all else.

  2. Connecticut might do a better job if they were part of the same teacher licensing system as the rest of the country. It might have changed but last I knew the test that individuals take (which usually starts while one is in college) results in licensing in 49 states. This includes Massachusetts which is ranked number 1 for education. The only state that doesn’t recognize the nearly universal licensing exam is Connecticut.

    Given that many students receive their degrees outside of Connecticut and take the nearly universal licensing exam, Connecticut is foolish not to adopt the same licensing process. Why would someone choose Connecticut if they’re licensed in 49 other states?

    1. I hate to burst your bubble but CREC’s years are numbered. They are being sued by the very children of the Hartford parents who were involved with Sheff vs. Oneil in the first place. Hartford parents want to know why their kids can’t go to a CREC school and the official answer is because they are black and the ratio limits how many blacks/Hispanics can attend (75%). Those parents then feel robbed when they see the funding that CREC receives versus their local Hartford school (both of which receive and spend wayyy more than my white well-water town). Not to mention the community of local children that is broken up when half are bused out of town each day. Towns like Middletown and Cromwell need to realize that they are funding CREC through income taxes but not getting anywhere as many seats as planned versus West Hartford, Avon, or Hartford because they are too diverse! wow. CREC has been heavily favoring mostly white towns and mostly black towns to try and control the mix of students selected in the “fair lottery”. CREC racially discriminates against entire towns based on their ethnic makeup, or as racism is called nowadays, CREC “equitably” selects students. Ain’t gunna last, even Malloy saw that when he stopped construction on new schools.

      1. Hi Malloys Muse, we welcome your comments but please note that our guidelines require that comments be limited to 1,000 characters. We will not be able to approve comments that exceed that limit going forward.

  3. As we return to the era of quotas – now we need a percentage of teachers that are the right color and “heritage” which goes alongside the notion that classrooms must have a certain percentage of white kids.

    The hypocrisy and racism is really astounding.

  4. Well, I understand the theory that having an instructor that looks like the students can have influence. But, how do you reconcile HBCU’s that do have instructors that look like the students and the retention and graduation rates are abysmal. I am in favor for more diverse instructors, but it is not a substitute for the gap in student learning outcomes.

  5. What’s the legal status of these programs?
    If you look only at the text of the Constitution, you’ll see that government actions cannot distinguish among people by race. Exceptions have been invented by judges who want to do good; Justice O’Conner determined that one exception would expire after 25 years, when all the necessary good should have been achieved.
    Standing to sue comes from an assertion that an opportunity has been denied because of discrimination based on race/ethnicity. If someone did sue in CT, are there precedents indicating the suit would fail?

  6. Nothing but a ploy to drum up jobs for minority candidates at the expense of white teachers; especially experienced white teachers who command higher salaries. Let’s get some young teachers of color who will work for low pay and terrible health insurance plans.

Leave a comment