The state should require teacher preparation programs to admit only candidates with strong academic records and support programs to encourage greater numbers of qualified individuals of color to become teachers. This goal was ungraded in 2020.
GPA/Testing Requirement: Connecticut requires that all candidates admitted to a teacher preparation program have a B- cumulative grade point average for all undergraduate courses. However, the state permits programs to "waive the minimum GPA requirement at their discretion."
Connecticut requires that each candidate admitted to any approved teacher preparation programs take, but not necessarily pass, the Praxis Core Mathematics, Reading, and Writing tests, the SAT, ACT or GRE. Candidates may qualify for a waiver "based on criteria established by the State Board of Education." The test results are used as a diagnostic tool to determine whether additional support in basic skills, with a focus on reading and math, is required. Connecticut no longer requires a minimum test score as a prerequisite for admission.
Additional Requirements: Connecticut requires all teacher preparation programs housed in institutions of higher education to obtain CAEP accreditation. Although meeting CAEP accreditation standards ensures a certain degree of proficiency, CAEP delays verification of a student's academic ability until graduation, rather than at the time of admission.
Diversity Programs: One of the goals of Connecticut's comprehensive five year plan is to "Monitor implementation of the Educator Equity Plan and minority teacher recruitment efforts to support districts in recruiting and retaining a diverse, effective educator corps." In order to achieve this goal, the state developed the EdKnowledge web site, as a central repository of information "to illustrate promising practices and locate models of success across five critical stages of the educator career continuum:
Connecticut is also implementing a program designed to increase the diversity of its teacher candidate pipelines. The state has implemented a pilot program in some districts in which minority students in 11th and 12th grade can take education courses at four partner state universities that comprise the Connecticut State University system. Participating school districts must provide a counselor to students in the program who then provide them with information about teacher shortage areas and the advanced placement program.
Additionally, Connecticut has approved several Alternate Route to Certification (ARC) Programs specifically aimed at diversifying the educator workforce including RELAY Connecticut and the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC): Alternate route to certification (ARC) residency program leading to an endorsement in elementary education with a specific focus on recruiting and preparing candidates of color.
Require that teacher preparation programs screen candidates for academic proficiency prior to admission.
Teacher preparation programs that do not screen candidates invest considerable resources in individuals who may not be able to successfully complete the program, pass licensing tests, and ultimately succeed in the classroom. Candidates in need of additional support should complete remediation before entering the program to avoid the possibility of an unsuccessful investment of significant public resources. Connecticut should, as it has done in the past, require candidates to pass a test of academic proficiency that assesses reading, mathematics, and writing prior to program admission that is normed to the general college-going population. Alternatively, the state could require a minimum grade point average of at least 3.0 for individuals or 3.2 for cohorts of accepted candidates in order to establish that prospective teachers have a strong academic history.
Consider requiring candidates to pass subject-matter tests as a condition of admission into teacher programs.
In addition to ensuring that programs require a measure of academic performance for admission, Connecticut may also consider requiring subject-matter testing prior to program admission, rather than at the point of program completion. Doing so would provide candidates lacking sufficient subject-matter expertise with an opportunity to remedy deficits prior to entering formal preparation.
Connecticut was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. The state also noted that Connecticut state department of education (CSDE) successfully developed and launched TEACH Connecticut, a digital recruitment platform, aimed at attracting educators to the teaching profession. The platform has expanded to include a "Talk to a Teacher" option for aspiring educators to get first-hand information on a variety of pathways into the profession and certification options. Additionally, new resources are available for aspiring educators to include preparation program application checklists, one to one coaching, best practice guides, and an opportunity to win a $1000 scholarship. According to the state, currently, 16 educator preparation programs and 68 school districts are committed partners in the program.
Evidence is strong that countries whose students consistently outperform U.S. students set a much higher bar for entry to teacher preparation programs than what is typically found in the United States. Far from the top third or even top tenth to which more selective countries limit candidates, most states do not even aim for the top 50 percent. Previous analysis has shown that many states do not require that preparation programs evaluate candidates' academic proficiency as a condition of admission to teacher preparation at all; most others set a low bar by requiring basic skills tests that generally assess middle school-level skills or by requiring a minimum GPA, but too few demand at least a 3.0.
In addition to the low skill level tested by current basic skills tests (e.g., the Praxis Core), another concern is that they are normed only to the prospective teacher population, which does not allow for comparability between prospective teachers and the entire college-bound population. Tests normed to the general college-bound population would shine a clearer light on the academic proficiency of those admitted to teacher preparation programs and allow programs to be truly selective.
While a positive start, CAEP standards are no substitute for states' own policies. CAEP's standards require that the group average performance on nationally normed ability assessments such as ACT, SAT, or GRE be in the top 50th percentile. However, CAEP allows programs the unnecessary freedom to determine whether the minimum criteria will be measured prior to admissions or at some point during the program. Clear state admission policies would send an unequivocal message to programs about the state's expectations for high admissions standards.
Research is clear about the positive effects of teachers with stronger academic backgrounds on student achievement. Higher teacher selectivity, as measured by factors such as SAT/ACT scores, GPA prior to program admission, and an institute of higher education's (IHE) general competitiveness or selectivity, has a significant, positive correlation with student achievement. Some studies support higher academic admissions standards for entry into TPPs, including studies showing a relationship between student achievement and teachers' verbal ability or selectivity of the teachers' college. Although research supports applying greater selectivity when admitting teacher candidates, some recent work has found no correlation between teachers' scores on tests normed to the general college-bound population (e.g., SAT, ACT) or IHE selectivity and student achievement.
States should support increased diversity in the teacher pipeline, in addition to maintaining high admissions standards for teacher preparation programs. Recent data show that 49 percent of students in the US were students of color, while only 17 percent of teachers were teachers of color. Twenty-eight states had gaps between the percentage of students and educators of color that were greater than 25 percentage points. A growing body of research suggests that students of color—students who often face the largest achievement gaps—benefit from having same-race teachers. Exposure to same-race teachers positively benefits student achievement, teachers' expectations and perceptions of students, teachers' assessments and perceptions of student behavior, students' rates of suspension and expulsion, students' assignment to Gifted and Talented programs, and students' perceptions of teachers. Some research suggests that teachers of the same race as their students are more likely to reduce high-school dropout rates as well as increase student attendance and college attendance intent, and improve discipline. Moreover, white students report that they favor teachers of color.