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Education Commissioner Discusses the Changing Needs of Students Today and More

“The needs of students today are much greater than they were 20 years ago,” said Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona during an interview on WNPR’s Where We Live Program this morning. “I don’t think that we’ve done enough to make sure that we’re providing teachers with support and professional learning to meet the demands of the students today.”

From the achievement gap to minority teacher recruitment to social and emotional learning, Cardona spoke on a number of topics. Listen to the complete interview here.

On the changing needs of students today, Cardona said, “Unfortunately, many times when we’re cutting back, and we’re cutting out reading supports, or we’re cutting out social-emotional supports, that’s what the kids need the most. We need to be looking at the staffing that we have and where we’re putting our resources to provide supports, not only for the students in the classroom, but for the teachers that have the difficult job of raising the bar, despite having needier students at times.”

For students today who come to school with diverse needs, school needs to be about more than academics.

“We don’t need to fix kids,” Cardona said. “Kids bring tremendous talent with them. They bring aspirations and hopes and dreams to be successful. We have to not only provide rigorous programming in the classroom, but we have to make sure we’re providing an environment that’s emotionally safe for these kids to grow and develop a sense of self worth and purpose.”

On the subject of the achievement gap, Cardona said the best way to move forward is by bringing diverse stakeholders together.

“We have to find a way to connect the dots and learn from one another,” he said. “My style is very much inclusive of different perspectives, of different groups—and when we develop plans to address major challenges in our state it’s important that I bring in stakeholders at the ground level to develop a plan, not co-sign a plan that I created, but give me different perspectives, so that whatever we come up with is the best strategy to move forward for the students in Connecticut.”

Recruiting a diverse teaching force is one way to help close the achievement gap, and Cardona said, “It’s critical that we diversify our workforce to reflect the population of students that we serve.”

Introducing students to the possibility of teaching as a career at a young age is one way that CEA is going about recruiting more students of color to the teaching profession, and it’s a strategy Cardona also endorsed.

“We need to think about growing our own,” he said. “We have diverse students in front of us. Why are we not considering them our next teachers? How can we do that earlier? Teaching is the best profession, and we need to be on the offense highlighting the great work that teachers do in Connecticut. Teachers shape lives.”

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