NEW BRITAIN - As racial disparity in education continues to be a national and statewide conversation, New Britain’s school district is hoping to continue to increase its ranks of minority teachers and administrators in the coming years.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 43 percent of the city’s 72,000-plus residents are white, 40 percent are Latino or Hispanic and 11 percent are black or African American. Other races make up the remaining percentage.
The Connecticut Economic Resource Center and Connecticut Data Collaborative’s 2018 town profile, which uses previous data as well as estimates for the future, had similar findings, varying between one and two percentage points in the above metrics.
According to information from the school district, about 83 percent of teachers in the district are white, almost 9 percent are Hispanic and more than three percent are black or African American. 72 percent of administrators are white, while 17 percent are Hispanic and more than 10 percent are African American. The district has made diversity gains in both of these employee categories over the last three years, but evening out the disparity remains a focus.
“As a district, our superintendent is committed to diversification of our workforce, both from the teacher aspect and the administrator aspect,” said Dr. Shuana Tucker, chief talent officer for the school district. “Over the past three years we’re trending in the right direction.”
In November, the National Bureau of Economic Research published the paper “The Long-Run Impacts of Same-Race Teachers” as part of its NBER Working Paper Series. The 70-page report used data from the Tennessee Student Teacher Achievement Ratio experiment, which measured the impact of class-size on student achievement. The experiment began in 1986 but there have been several follow-up studies related to it, and this most recent report used public Project STAR data combined with date collected from schools in North Carolina.
“We find that black students randomly assigned to a black teacher in grades K-3 are 5 percentage points (7 percent) more likely to graduate from high school and 4 percentage points (13 percent) more likely to enroll in college than their peers in the same school who are not assigned a black teacher,” part of the abstract for the report reads.
Over the past few years the district has focused on increasing its minority representation among administrators such as principals and central office staff. Recruiting and hiring teachers, though, is another struggle.
“I’m not sure if everyone clearly understands that, from the teacher aspect, it’s a little bit more challenging to recruit teachers of color to Connecticut,” Tucker said. “State data … shows that those in the pipeline at our universities in educator prep programs - the number of minorities that are enrolled in those programs are very, very low.”
Those minority students who are in the program, Tucker explained, often have several districts vying to hire them when they graduate. Also, out-of-state graduates often don’t have Connecticut at the top of their employment lists due to the state’s weather and high cost of living, Tucker said.
This challenge has led New Britain to implement a sort of “grow-your-own” approach. The district has implemented the Educators Rising program at the high school, a tool used to help students who are interested in becoming teachers learn more about the profession and what they need to be successful.
“We want to expose our students to that,” Tucker said of the program. “Overwhelmingly, we have more females than males that are interested, but a lot of the students that are interested are minorities, which is a plus for us.”
The district is in talks with Central Connecticut State University, the University of Hartford and the University of Saint Joseph about developing partnerships with New Britain students enrolled in the Educators Rising program.
“Not just to visit a college campus but actually sitting in on courses, talking to professors, meeting students and actually attending an event,” Tucker said of her hopes with the partnership.
The talent officer agrees with the findings of the NBER’s research paper. Tucker and other administrators in the district are currently working on a map-plan with goals and benchmarks for hiring and recruitment.
“We want our workforce to represent our demographic population, and I want to make it very clear that diversification does not mean that we’re substituting quality - we always want the best qualified and top qualified candidates,” Tucker said. “Our students need those role models and they need to see people who look like them and who understand them and say ‘well if they can do this, I know I can, too.’”
Jerrell Hargraves, the city’s human rights and opportunities officer, shared similar sentiments to Tucker’s.
“It may help the kids. They look up to people that they know and they can say ‘Hey, that can be me, too. Race doesn’t matter,’” Hargraves said. “You can achieve a goal no matter what race or ethnicity you are.”
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.