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Quijano Introduces Bills Addressing Teacher Diversity in NJ Schools

(TRENTON) – While about 56 percent of students in New Jersey are nonwhite, only 16 percent of teachers are racial or ethnic minorities.

Seeking to diversify the educator workforce in New Jersey, Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union) introduced three bills to help schools recruit and retain teachers of color, as well as support culturally responsive teaching methods.

“Many students of color go through their entire K-12 education without having a teacher who looks like them,” said Quijano. “Representation matters. Our teacher population should be just as ethnically diverse as our student body.”

The first bill (A-4594) requires the New Jersey Board of Education to create procedures to issue limited certificates of eligibility with advanced standing and limited certificates of eligibility for certain teacher candidates. Currently, teacher candidates must meet several requirements to earn these certificates and be eligible to teach in New Jersey public schools. This bill would relax some of those requirements for certain candidates so that they may earn a provisional teaching license. They would be issued a standard teaching license after performing well on two evaluations over a four-year period.

School districts seeking to hire teachers with provisional licenses would apply to the New Jersey Commissioner of Education. To be eligible, a district must be facing demographic disparities in teacher and student populations, a shortage of bilingual education teachers or critical teacher vacancies.

The second measure (A-4595) would create the three-year “Male Teachers of Color Mentorship Pilot Program.” The Commissioner of Education would select ten male students of color from higher education institutions and ten male teachers of color from school districts. Students must be in their final year of an educator preparation program to participate.

Each student would be paired with a current teacher, who would serve as his mentor through his last year of the educator preparation program and first two years of his teaching career. A school district participating in the program would commit to hiring the student upon his graduation.

Finally, the last bill (A-4596) would require Department of Education, together with the Diverse and Learner-Ready Teachers Initiative or equivalent entity, to develop a credential for culturally responsive teaching. The purpose of the credential would be to introduce teachers to culturally responsive teaching practices that acknowledge, respond to and embrace the cultural backgrounds of all students to help ensure equitable access to education.

The credential would be made available to teachers beginning in the first full school year following the bill’s enactment.

“The classroom should be a space where students feel seen, heard and respected. That begins with building a diverse teaching workforce, supporting teachers of color and ensuring all educators embrace and appropriately respond to their students’ cultures and backgrounds,” said Quijano. “Our schools should reflect and respect the rich diversity of our communities. I’d like to thank Sen. Teresa Ruiz for her leadership and partnership in addressing this issue. ”

The bills now go to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.