This past Monday CAHS presented our latest report on remedial education "Transitional College Readiness Programs in Connecticut: Adult Educators as Partners" at Middlesex Community College, in Middletown.
This new report focuses on an innovative new model to address remedial education for transitional students, those that test at 8th grade or below in their placement test. A set of new programs have brought together community colleges and adult education providers to work together to provide remedial education, using a variety of new strategies that combine support services, personalized instruction, software-based solutions and innovative teaching tools. Ren Brockmeyer and Roger Senserrich, the main authors of the report, were at hand to present the findings (slides on their presentation here).
After discussing the report, a panel with Dr. Steve Minkler, Dean of Academic Affairs at Middlesex, Dr. Diane Clare-Kearney, Director of Manchester Adult and Continuing Education, and Fred Silbermann, Program Facilitator for Meriden Adult Education, joined the authors to discuss their experiences implementing the new programs. Following the panel, the attendees participated in table discussions on how Connecticut can create new pathways to success for non-conventional students.
The main conclusion of both experts and attendees is that the new reform has shown some very promising results where community colleges and adult education providers worked together to deliver remedial classes. Building new partnerships, however, has proved challenging.
The full report is available for download here.
On January 29th join the Connecticut Asset Building Collaborative in New Haven for the second event in our peer learning series:
Join us on Thursday January 29rd, from 9 am to 12.00 pm, at the United Way of Greater New Haven for an open discussion on best practices on program work.
We will hear from Julia Brown, from Innovations for Poverty Action and Yale´s Household Finance Initiative on how behavioral economics can inform and improve asset building programs, and learn how front line staff can apply these lessons to become more effective. We will cover:
We will discuss these issues, and many more, in an open , freewheeling discussion with economists and program managers, all expert on this field. They will give an open, comprehensive look at best practices, good ideas and the (occasional) missteps running an asset building program.
Seating is limited, and filling up rapidly - please RSVP here as soon as possible if you want to attend.
About Julia Brown:
Julia Brown is Initiative Manager at Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA)'s US Household Finance Initiative. She works to oversee the initiative and provide strategic direction as well as project-specific guidance on design, implementation, partnership development, and fundraising. Prior to joining IPA, her work focused on evaluating business training and microinsurance services for low-income Latino immigrants in San Francisco and New York City. She has also worked on the design and analysis of multiple randomized evaluations, in areas ranging from education to sanitation. She holds a B.A. in Economics and Women's and Gender Studies from Williams College, and a Master of International Affairs with a concentration in Economic and Political Development from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.
About Innovations for Poverty Action:
Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to discovering and promoting effective solutions to global poverty problems. In close partnership with decisionmakers -- the policymakers, practitioners, investors, and donors working with the poor around the world -- we design and evaluate potential solutions to poverty problems using randomized evaluations, the most rigorous evaluation method available. We also mobilize and support these decisionmakers to use these solutions to build better programs and policies at scale.
About the Household Finance Initiative:
Established in 2009, the US Household Finance Initiative (USHFI) leads IPA's US research. Led by researchers Jonathan Zinman (Dartmouth College) and Dean Karlan (Yale University), the initiative uses insights from behavioral economics to develop, rigorously evaluate, and scale cost-effective financial products and product innovations that help low- to moderate-income households lead healthier financial lives.
Last Friday CAHS participated on a round table with Senator Richard Blumenthal and Senator Chris Murphy at the Hartford YWCA. The main topic was student debt, and more specifically, on how student loans hinder the graduate's capacity to pursue public services careers.
Although there is currently a Federal loan forgiveness program for students pursuing public services jobs, the current rules are clunky and inflexible: an individual is required to remain ten years on these occupations without interruption or face stiff penalties. Both Connecticut US Senators are sponsoring a bill to improve this program. In 2012 the average student finished college with $29,400 in debt.
On Friday's round table many care givers, non profit advocates, teachers and other public servants shared their stories (you can read some of them here) about struggling with debt and having to postpone major life decisions (having a kid, buying a house, saving for retirement) as they face their loan payments. Pictures from the event after the jump.
What if we paid our most at risk parents a minimum wage to go back to school to gain a high school diploma or gain employability skills while their children are in preschool? During the September Early Childhood Alliance meeting Governor Malloy floated this very idea. Some might find this idea absurd, but Connecticut is at a poverty crossroad and maybe it’s time to consider bold initiatives.
Poverty in Connecticut is reaching epidemic proportions. Despite various strategies and valiant efforts we are going backwards. In fact, over the past 25 years, childhood poverty has increased by 50%. Today, in Connecticut, almost 30% of the children are living in poverty or near poverty. For many of the most in need parents, a lack of education and the problem of illiteracy obstruct their personal and economic success, limit the pre-literacy skills of their children and contribute to a cycle of poverty that repeats through generations. This is not a small problem. Recent census data show that about 4,000 children are born in Connecticut each year to a mother that has not completed high school. Additionally 5,000 more children are born to a mother who has no education past high school.
When a parent does not have a high school diploma or career skills training then the chances of the family rising out of poverty are slim. In Connecticut 58% of mothers who did not complete high school are not securely employed. A large percentage of these families are living in poverty and receiving state assistance. The stresses of living in poverty have an effect on family, children and community. With today’s highly skilled workforce, there is little opportunity for career.
What is more disconcerting is that the chances for the children of undereducated parents to be successful in school are significantly impacted. Connecticut eighth grade proficiency tests show that of those children with a mother lacking high school, only 22 % demonstrate reading proficiency and only 14% demonstrate proficiency in math. 40% of these children don’t graduate from high school on time. The cycle of intergenerational poverty continues.
Yet parents living in poverty do not have the means to go back to school. Their only option is to work minimum wage unskilled jobs. They are often part time, include odd hours and have work schedules that vary from week to week. This does not allow for educational opportunity or workforce training that could lead to secure employment and financial independence, hardly a recipe for state prosperity.
So what if we recognize that all parents want their children to thrive and be successful. What if we take a leap of faith and encourage new thinking to help families navigate a way up and out of poverty?
We can turn a blind eye to our neighbors who have been born into poverty or we can stare families straight in the face and like Governor Malloy, imagine bold solutions.
Five teenage parents sit in folding chairs at the front of the Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC) Community Room in New Britain. Each is the son or daughter of a teen parent; some are third generation teen parents. Several have graduated from high school; others will be graduating this year. Sitting with them are program facilitators, Jennifer and Troy. Both were themselves teen parents and now they are using their knowledge and experience to guide and mentor these students.
For the past five weeks these young parents have been participating in a communications and public speaking class at the Hospital of Central Connecticut’s Family Enrichment Center in collaboration with New Britain OIC. Jennifer Hernandez, Program Manager at the Family Enrichment Center taught the course. This is the culminating event. Their final presentations are based on a lifetime of understanding about the issues and concerns facing teen parents.
One by one each young parent stands at the microphone, introduces him or herself and eloquently speaks of the difficulties faced when juggling parenting, school and work as a teen. Not one asks for sympathy or expects others to approve of their circumstances. Instead, each voices the reality of being a teen with all of the responsibilities of an adult.
Their messages came from two places, appreciation and advocacy.
Each in their own voice expressed appreciation for the support and mentoring offered by the OIC and the Family Enrichment Center. From these programs they have found a helpful, supportive community that cares about them and cares about their children. They have learned about child development, the importance of early literacy, children’s developmental stages and behavior and the value of good nutritional habits. Several spoke of New Britain’s low third grade reading scores and the connection between their own responsibility as parent and the success of their children. The awareness of how their actions impact the well being of their children is far beyond that of a typical teenager.
There was also a call to the audience to advocate for needed supports, especially quality childcare for parents who need to complete their education. Without childcare, none of these young parents would have the ability to complete their high school education. Of course, without high school it is nearly impossible to secure employment that would support a family.
As each parents spoke, it became clear that the experiences these teens have had with adults have not always been positive. They explained the pain when educators and other adults in their lives do not understand their situation. Whether through comments, actions or just expressions, all of these students have experienced the sting of being judged by adults. Several parents asked that training be provided for educators, focusing on the circumstances of becoming and being a teen parent. They hope that this education for school staff would lead to a greater understanding of their situation.
Through it all they show resilience. What is clear is how much they love their children and how committed they are to ending the generational cycle of teen pregnancy in their family. They have dreams for their futures and the future of their children.
As parents, educators and advocates, it is our responsibility to listen to their voices, understand their circumstances and provide direction and hope.
In their own Words:
“We must end the cycle of teen pregnancy and take the path less traveled. “
“When I graduate I want to go to art school.”
“We as parents must learn the proper way to take care of ourselves and our children.”
I want to go to college to learn to work with young children.”
“I want to be a beautician. That is my dream”
“Just because we have a hard time juggling between parenting , going to school, working... it doesn't mean we are being lazy."
In the words of Jennifer Hernandez:
"What I would want others to understand is that once our teen parents have decided to parent, the discussion, the interactions…. need to promote success. There is no turning back. The decision has been made and we as a society need to support encourage and motivate these young people to be all they can be. Continuing to place our values, thoughts and beliefs about the morality of teen parenting is senseless once the child is here. I am not saying to promote teen parenting, I am saying once the decision is made they are not only teens; they are parents who are parenting our future."
For more information, you can check their website here.
This is a first in a series of posts that CAHS will be doing on the 2014 Annie E. Casey KIDS COUNT National Data Book release. Below is our press release that summarizes the reports findings regarding CT’s kids. Stay tuned for updates – including a recap of today’s release event at the Legislative Office Building (find more information and RSVP here) and posts that take a deeper dive into the 16 indicators that give us insight to the health, education, economic-well being and family and community context of our states’s children. The full report is available now here.
Child Poverty in Connecticut Has Increased Since 1990 despite Education Gains, New National Publication Reports
Number of children living in poverty has increased by 50 percent in the past 25 years according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book
Hartford – The number of children living in poverty in Connecticut has increased by 50 percent since 1990, according to a new report released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Nationwide, child poverty numbers are up since the recent recession, with nearly 16.4 million children in families below the federal poverty level. The good news is that both nationally and in Connecticut there have been steady improvements over the past 25 years in the numbers of children attending preschool and a decline in the number of students not proficient in reading and math.
Connecticut is ranked 7th overall on the report’s child well-being indicators that span education, health, economic well-being, and family and community context. The state ranked as high as 3rd in the pre-recession 2006 and 2007 years. The KIDS COUNT Data Book evaluates the latest data on children and families for every state, the District of Columbia, and the nation.
Comparing data collected in 1990, the first year the KIDS COUNT Data Book was released, to the most recent available data, the 25th edition of the national KIDS COUNT Data Book reveals that in Connecticut:
- Housing costs are a burden to children and their families. Over 40 percent of children in Connecticut are living in families that spend 30 percent or more of their income on housing. This places Connecticut near the bottom of all states (43rd).
- More children are living in high poverty neighborhoods. The percentage of children living in neighborhoods with high concentrations of poverty has nearly doubled since 1990. There has also been a significant increase in the number of children living in single parent families. In 1990, it was 1 in 5 children; in 2014 the report finds that it is now 1 in 3 children.
- Children are progressing in the areas of education and health. Connecticut’s children have improved significantly in education since 1990 – graduation rates and test scores have seen double digit percentage increases, and the state ranks 1st in the nation on the number of children who report a preschool experience. Connecticut also has a comparatively low-rate of uninsured children, and the lowest child and teen death rate in the country.
“This newest report shows us that Connecticut, one of the wealthiest states in the country, is falling behind,” said Jim Horan, Executive Director of the Connecticut Association for Human Services (CAHS). “The report also shows that a strong commitment paired with investment can bring about results. In recent years the Governor and the legislature have prioritized universal preschool access, and this year we were ranked number one in children reporting preschool experiences.”
Horan added, “We need to show this same commitment to our state’s poorest families in other areas – we need to allocate our time and resources to proven workforce training and support programs, greater affordable housing options, and outreach to our most vulnerable neighborhoods.
As the KIDS COUNT Data Book is being released in Baltimore, CAHS will be holding a conversation about the findings of the report, and next steps for the state, at a July 22 event at the State’s Legislative Office Building, Room 1C. The event will begin at 11:00 a.m.
The 2014 National KIDS COUNT Data Book is available in the KIDS COUNT Data Center, which also contains the most recent national, state and local data on hundreds of measures of child well-being. Data Center users can create rankings, maps and graphs for use in publications and on websites, and view real-time information on mobile devices.
The Connecticut Association for Human Services (CAHS) is a nonprofit policy and program organization that promotes family economic security strategies to empower low-income working families to achieve financial independence. Our mission is to end poverty and engage, equip, and empower all families in Connecticut to build a secure future.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. For more information, visit www.aecf.org. KIDS COUNT® is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
We will be on the radio this Tuesday, July 15th! Tune in WICC600 in Bridgeport / Fairfield County to hear us discuss two-generation programs live on air. You can listen live through their website here, or using the Rdio app on your smartphone or tablet. What are two-generation programs, you might ask? See below!
Parents are a key component of children success. We know that kids are more likely to succeed when parents are involved, but their influence goes beyond that their direct support. More educated parents, for instance, for their kids, motivate them, and help them navigate the education system, while creating an expectation for success.
The data is very clear in this regard. A recent study by the Foundation for Children Development analyzing student outcomes for low income kids found that children of parents who have not graduated from high school are much less likely to be proficient on reading and math. In Connecticut, only 22% of kids are proficient by 8th grade, and just 14% are in math. This numbers are borne in part from the support that those kids can receive, but poverty also pays a role: 52% of households where the mother did not graduate from high school are poor, and 58% are not securely employed.
This has prompted many advocates to advocate for a two-generation strategy regarding children´s education. We know that better educated parents can provide a more support to kids in school. We know better educated adults are more likely to have good jobs and provide the stable environments that children need to thrive, specially at a very early age. As a result, programs that focus their work both on the adults and kids of a household are considerably more effective: they are able to provide better learning experiences for the children, while helping parents to move up to better jobs, empowering them. This report from CLASP provides an excellent overview of this approach.
Again - CAHS has been advocating for this kind of policy solutions as well. We will actually be talking about these programs tomorrow July 15th on WICC600 Bridgeport - tune in!
- Although it is important to keep in mind than students with six figure debt burdens are relatively rare, this does not mean that the issue is not important.
- The total amount of student debt out there is enormous, enough to become a real drag for the economy.
- To make them worse, they are incredibly hard to shake off, even in bankruptcy.
- There are some studies pointing out that college grads with a debt burden are delaying marriage, moving out from their parent´s place or getting a mortgage.
- Above all, a reminder: the students that are the most burdened with loans are those that have a fairly small amount. Sure, a lawyer or doctor might have a huge bill, but community college dropouts will often have a lot more trouble paying back their loans with their much smaller income.
Right now there are two interesting proposals to improve how we pay for college:
- "Pay it forward", or income based repayment. We covered this system in the past, in a blog post. Basically, students can attend college for free, but pay a fixed percentage of their income over a period of time (say, 15 years) upon graduation. As Sara Goldrick-Rab explains in this article, however, the system sounds good on paper, but it is much less progressive that it sounds. "Pay it forward" plans focus on tuition, but this is only a small percentage of the cost of attending to college - room and board and books are an even larger barrier. Implementation would only work if it is universal; without it we will only see a regressive market segmentation. The article is well worth a read - as we often say, there is not such a thing as a magical solution, and "pay it forward" would only work under very specific conditions.
- What is the alternative, then? Sara Golrick-Rab has a bold alternative: a free two year college option. Basically, have public institutions offer the first two years of college for no cost. In a way, we would extend the K-12 system to K-14. You can read her proposal here.
There is, as usual, an often forgotten policy tool that has a lot of potential: work study. Working Poor Families Project just released a new report on how work study is often underused, and how it could play a major role in making college more affordable. You can read their study here.
We want all children to succeed in school. We all say that, but we know that achieving this is not easy - although Connecticut is one of the wealthiest states in the country, disparities in test scores between towns and racial groups are by many measures the among the biggest in the country. We want to make sure that all kids, however, are able to thrive: if we want responsible, productive taxpayers down the road, it makes sense that everyone in our communities, parents, educators, schools, work together to do so.
Research shows that one of the main drivers in school achievement is the level of education of the parents. College-educated partents are more likely to read to them, encourage them to go to college, and help them with homework. The more educated they are, the more likely it is that their children will do well in school and graduate. For groups that are traditionally less educated, consequently, we have kids that start school with a build in disadvantage, even if their parents are fully committed to their children.
The obvious question, then, is which children are more likely to face this barrier. Sheryl Horowitz, here at CAHS, has used ACS data through IPUMS to anwer this with a graph:
The numbers are pretty clear - 66% of white parents in Connecticut have a post secondary credential; 27% African American and 32% Hispanic parents do so. These numbers can and do become a source of disparities in education.
We want all children to succeed, but not all children begin their education at the same place. As Connecticut moves to close the achievement gap, we need to include common sense measures aimed at helping both children and parents succeed. Our school and pre-K system needs to look beyond just children, and start thinking on both kids and parents.
Wednesday evening marked the end of the very unpredictable 2014 Legislative Session, and Connecticut’s low-income children and families have much to celebrate! The past few months have seen an increase to the minimum wage, a partial restoration of the Earned Income Tax Credit, and a major expansion of the state’s early childhood care and education programs. The budget also included a substantial increase in funding for remedial education at the state’s higher education institutions and protected resources that go to the state’s legal aid clinics – both investments being critical for our state’s most vulnerable citizens.
Below we have highlighted a few of the “good”, “bad” and “ugly” legislative developments. Our full breakdown of all the bills we had been watching that affect low-income children and families is available here.
- Connecticut is First State to Raise the Minimum Wage to $10.10. Public Act 14-1 increases the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017. This increase will directly help 140,000 workers, many of whom are women leading single parent families, move out of poverty. A higher minimum wages means greater financial stability for vulnerable parents and children, reduced need for government safety net programs, and higher earnings for students who are working to pay for college.
- Budget Agreement Restores CT’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to 27.5% of the federal EITC. In 2012, Connecticut implemented a state EITC equal to 30% of the federal EITC. This was reduced in the last legislative session to 25% of the federal EITC for 2014. Despite late session concerns about the budget and available resources, the legislature restored the EITC to 27.5% for 2015, as called for in the biennial budget. Research shows that the EITC is one of the most effective anti-poverty programs that are directly targeted to low-income working families.
- Full Establishment of the Office of Early Childhood. Governor Malloy created the Office of Early Childhood by Executive Order in 2013, to help ensure a strong and effective system of care and education for young children. Previously personnel and programs that made up the state’s early care and education “non-system” were scattered across five agencies – creating confusion and inconsistency. The legislature brought much needed stability by enacting HB 5562, which puts the Office of Early Childhood in law.
- Senate Fails to Pass Legislation Tackling the Issue of Chronic Absence. Both national and state-level research demonstrates that when children miss more than 10% of the school year, regardless of the reason, they fall behind and almost never catch up. Legislation that would define the problem of chronic absence, and provide school resources to help families with frequently absent children, was never called by the Senate after passing the House, 93-44.
- “Pay It Forward” College Payment Study Does Not Garner Enough Support. A bill that would have the state study the feasibility of having students attend public universities for free, in exchange for a portion of future earnings, failed to be voted on the Senate before the close of session.
- A Shaky Budget. After the legislature unveiled their budget on Saturday, critics expressed concerns with some of the measures used to balance it. Particularly troubling was a $75 million line item that relied on the collection of back taxes, with few details about how this funding would be recovered. While we applaud the legislature for its support for low-income families in this budget, it is equally important that we are honest about the state’s finances to ensure the CT is able to continue funding our safety net programs for years to come.
- Remedial Education Reform Delayed. Connecticut approved an ambitious reform for remedial education in 2012. For the past two years, the Board of Regents has worked with state universities and community colleges to implement the changes. As some institutions have struggled to meet the fall 2014 deadline to fully roll out the reform, the legislature has decided to give the option to community colleges to delay its implementation until 2015. This may postpone some much needed changes in the system, but the legislation opens the door for those colleges that are ready to roll out the reform.
We want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for your support through out this session — these successes would have been impossible without you! We look forward to building on this momentum, and to continue the fight for policies that allow all children and families thrive, regardless of income, in 2015.