By Brenda Maguire
NEW BRITAIN — The state Department of Education is in a phase of “exploration” and “investigation” to determine how to improve education in public schools, faculty members and others were told Monday at Central Connecticut State University.
Gov. Dannel Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor met with a group of about 20 faculty members in the Bellen Gallery in CCSU’s student center to discuss what needs to be changed, covering a range of concerns that included state regulations, the placement of student teachers and how to draw top students into the teaching field.
“We are a state that others look up to,” Pryor said. “But in education we’re stagnant.”
Timothy Reagan, an education professor at CCSU, said that some problems come from restrictions that are placed on master’s programs in teaching not faced by comparable initiatives, such as Teach for America, a nonprofit group that recruits top students after graduation to teach in low-income communities.
“Knowing that TFA is a strong program, the data I’ve seen doesn’t suggest that they perform better,” said CCSU Dean of Education Mitchell Sakofs.
Anne Pautz, assistant dean of the School of Education and Professional Studies, noted that the wording on these restrictions is the same for both programs, but they are applied differently.
When Pautz posed the question, “Do we really need state regulations?” Malloy responded, “We’re certainly not going to reverse the direction that’s laid out for us.”
He later added, “Being more nimble doesn’t mean we have to vacate all responsibility.”
Malloy was told that restrictions are hurting those looking to drop one career for another in education.
“One of the issues for career-changers is that Connecticut teachers do not participate in Social Security,” said Nancy Hoffman, a professor of teacher education. She noted that people who have already put into Social Security for 40 years would likely opt out of a teaching job for that reason.
“Help us make it easier for adult learners getting certified,” added James DeLaura, professor and chairman of the Technology Education Department.
Faculty members also said the placement of student teachers too often proves more difficult than it should.
Every year CCSU has to place 300 student teachers and although it’s always accomplished, it can be a chore. Pautz said it sometimes takes up to five attempts before a student is placed. CCSU has also faced problems with recruiting top students for its education program.
Reagan noted that it would help draw in better students if CCSU could offer more scholarships or a loan-forgiveness program.
Pautz noted that many look to other careers because teaching salaries lag behind other incomes.
“There’s really not a career ladder,” said Reagan, adding that one could move to an administrative job, “But then you’re not really a teacher anymore.”
Other issues covered Monday included the lack of data being kept to track the success of teachers after graduation and the need for a teacher leader certification.