Mia Cortés Castro, Contributing Photographer

The New Haven Board of Education announced two new plans to improve student performance around the Elm City at their public meeting on Monday evening.

In the meeting, the Board of Education approved a plan — required for all Connecticut public schools — to increase educator diversity in public schools. It also approved a submission on behalf of Augusta Lewis Troup School to the Commissioner’s Network, a state-wide program that aids low-performing schools.

“Our vision with this plan is that every student and educator in New Haven Public Schools is seen, heard and valued,” Madeline Negrón, the Superintendent of New Haven Public Schools, said. “We cultivate trust and eliminate obstacles to foster diversity, equity and inclusion. We commit to cultural competence and linguistic diversity that extends to the heart of our district where diverse educators mirror the beautiful mosaic of our student population.”

Both of these plans were presented to around 40 public members and 20 staff members from schools around New Haven as part of Negrón’s Superintendent Report. This crowd, as well as five members of the Board of Education, gathered in the gymnasium of Ross Woodward Elementary School. More public members and the remaining members of the board attended virtually via Zoom, which was projected on a screen for the crowd to see.

Increasing educator diversity in New Haven Public Schools

The plan to increase the diversity of educators in public schools around the city is part of a statewide effort to improve representation in classrooms. 

In place since July 1, the plan requires each Board of Education around Connecticut to submit a plan to increase educator diversity. With the deadline of this plan’s submission coming up on March 15, the Board of Education went over the specifics of the plan to clarify their next steps. 

Negrón talked the audience through the importance of the plan and the impact it will have on student performance, presented statistics that demonstrate New Haven’s current diversity and explained the plan’s steps and goals.

Negrón also presented the planning team’s eight members, mostly faculty at various public schools.

“This was definitely a mandate that we embrace, not something that we feel is being pushed on us, because it does align with the core values of our city,” Negrón said.

Nearly 30 percent of New Haven-employed educators are people of color, and 89.5 percent of New Haven Public School students are students of color. These numbers are more or less equal to those of the other three major cities in the state. Across the state, only 11.2 percent of public school educators are people of color.

However, Negrón noted that while New Haven’s teacher diversity exceeds that of Connecticut overall, the diversity of New Haven itself does, too — making the state’s general ratio of teachers of color to students of color higher than the Elm City’s. 

Negrón quoted the National Council on Teacher Quality to emphasize the importance of diversity in education.

“It is possible to measure real gains made by Black students who experience even just one Black teacher, in how much they learn and the rate in which they graduate, including from college,” Negrón quoted. 

Through this plan, the eight-person team hopes to improve representation in classrooms, in the hopes that students are more engaged in learning when they see people like them. The plan prioritizes recruiting more educators of color, addressing their challenges when teaching to improve teacher retention rates and adapting educator application processes to reach a broader audience.

The plan also set forth a goal to formulate a career pathway program into education for students of color to increase the number of New Haven Public School-educated teachers and staff members.

The planning team predicted a 15-percent increase in educators of color, a 12 percent increase in applications from educators of diverse backgrounds and a 15 percent increase in the retention rate of educators of color, all by the end of the 2026-27 school year.

At the end of the presentation, Board of Education member Edward Joyner urged the board to keep in mind the implications that strongly pushing diversity recruiting can have on the quality of educators at the schools. Joyner brought up that the plan must not be the end-all-be-all of recruitment and retention, however, because diversity is only one quality that constitutes a good educator. 

“It’s not always necessarily true that because a person is diverse, or maybe from the same background as a lot of students, that that person cares about those cases of education,” Joyner said.

Troup partakes in Commissioner’s Network Turnaround Plan for student achievement

During the 2022-23 school year, Augusta Lewis Troup School was selected by the Commissioner’s Network to partake in its program through the Connecticut Department of Education. The program selects 25 schools around the state that have been identified as low-performing to provide financial and instructional support, helping them develop curricula that will enhance learning in whichever areas of study students of that school are performing worst in.

This March, after a year of planning and coming up with a Turnaround Plan and committee, or a plan detailing how the school will use the network to enhance student performance, Troup will submit its plan to the Connecticut Board of Education. The prospective start date for the plan if the submission is accepted is July 2024.

“Our teachers are going to get professional development in any environment, not only language arts classes, but also in math, science and social studies,” Eugene Foreman, the principal of Augusta Lewis Troup School, said. “It’s important because we have a lot of support in place for reading, but we need a lot more support for writing.”

Troup’s turnaround plan focuses on improving literacy “across the curriculum.” In a presentation projected for the public, Foreman used the acronym TACO — Talent, Academics, Culture and Climate, Operations — to detail the tweaks to daily school life that will be implemented to improve literacy. 

The TACO Turnaround plan includes developing learning plans that reflect teacher and student needs, improving instructional practices to maximize student learning and engagement, improving attendance and communication and implementing extended learning opportunities. The plan highlights reading, writing and math as its focus areas, with a particular focus on literacy.

“We want to ensure that students understand that I don’t write something down and hand it in … it’s a process,” said Caroline Apgar, assistant principal of Augusta Lewis Troup School. “So that’s going to be a critical piece to the work that’s going to happen.”

The presentation also included a list of the ten members of the team who will help with the plan’s implementation. These team members are all either educators or faculty members at Troup.

If Troup’s plan is accepted by the state, they will receive the Department of Education’s support for three to five years as they implement the strategies detailed in the plan.

The next New Haven Board of Education meeting will be held on March 11 at Ross Woodward Elementary Magnet School, located at 185 Barnes Ave.

Mia Cortés Castro covers City Hall and State Politics, and previously covered Cops and Courts. Originally from Dorado, Puerto Rico, she is a sophomore in Branford College studying English.