“Act as if what you say and what you do makes a difference, because it does.”
On April 3rd and 4th adult educators from all corners of Connecticut gathered in Mystic for the 2014 Connecticut Association of Adult and Continuing Education Conference. (CAACE) In Connecticut approximately 11% of the population does not have high school equivalency. In addition, 7% of the population of our population is not proficient in English. Adult Education programs address the educational needs of these learners, providing the expertise and support necessary to guide students toward their educational goals.
With the implementation of higher educational standards and Connecticut’s changing workforce needs, the importance of adult education as a bridge to success is becoming even more necessary. During the conference, conversations amongst educators centered around increasingly difficult educational standards, the revised and more challenging GED credential and the role of adult educators in transitioning students toward post-secondary education and workforce success.
The highlight and most compelling portion of the conference was the student award ceremony. This year four students were acknowledged as a 2014 Student of the Year. For each of them, success was only realized by overcoming great obstacles: This is the Face of Adult Education.
Dane Scates from Stamford Adult Education “wowed” the audience with her strong rendition of the National Anthem. Dane lost her mother as a teenager and battled debilitating asthma that eventually caused her to drop out of high school. Years later, despite ongoing struggles Dane persevered and worked towards completing her High School Diploma. Now looking forward, Dane states, “I want a career where I can make difference. I have a mission and that is to create change for the better in our children’s lives, as they are our future.”
Luz Santana moved to Holyoke Massachusetts when she was just fourteen years old. Language barriers made it difficult for her to be successful in school. Years later she moved to Connecticut and while working full time began ESL classes in West Hartford. She not only progressed in her ESL classes, but also completed her high school requirements through the National External Diploma Program. The NEDP allows working adults to complete their high school requirements through the completion of a personal educational portfolio. This route to high school completion is challenging and ultimately proves mastery of high school concepts and knowledge. Her positive attitude not only led her to success but inspired others to do the same.
Aicha Kalapo has been attending Vernon Regional Adult Education. Aicha was born in Sierra Leone and raised in Mali. Her schooling ended at age ten so that she could help at home with her younger siblings. At nineteen she arrived in the US with her young son. With the help of her sponsor family she began ESL classes. Aicha worked two jobs and became proficient in English. With persistence and determination she eventually earned her high school equivalency. In the fall of 2014 she will be attending Manchester Community College with the hope of a bright future for herself and her son.
Jessica Ortiz attends East Hartford Adult and Continuing Education. Jessica left high school at age 17 with just 6.5 credits left to complete. After 15 years of raising children and working full time Jessica went back to school at East Hartford Adult Education. Her teachers describe her as always prepared and motivated. Jessica not only works through her own learning challenges but is also an inspiration and cheerleader for others. She is on track to graduate in June of this year! But that is not the end. She would like to continue her education so that one day she might become a social worker and continue to be a guiding light for others.
Each of these students represents hundreds more all over the state. Many are also working one or two jobs, while going to school so that their American Dream can come true. Many have faced overwhelming obstacles as children and adults. Behind each success is the persistence, dedication and support of adult educators!
As stated by Christine Bjork, one of the 2014 CAACE Adult Educators of the Year, “The one thing that all students are seeking is acceptance, respect and success.” Congratulations to these students and all the adult educators who practice these words each day!
A few days ago CAHS presented at the Capitol our latest report: "Developmental Education Reform: Ensuring Success for All in Connecticut".
The report discusses the implementation of PA 12-40, the remedial ed reform bill approved by the legislature two years ago, and how it will affect new community college students. Our focus is, above all, in those students that need the most remedial education - usually adult workers that have been outside of academic environments the longest, usually low income or minority. These students often require several remedial courses before they are considered to be ready to attend college-level classes - and under the old, pre-reform system, often were discouraged and left way before they even finished them.
Our report is divided in four different sections:
- Why reform was needed - with a brief look at completition rates by group, and how remedial education was the least effective with adult students and minorities.
- An overview of the reform - including a description of the new "tiered" system established by the reform and a special focus on those groups that need the most remedial education.
- Challenges facing the reform - an overview of potential issues that students might be facing.
- Policy recommendations - including the need for more resources.
The legislature is considering adding additional resources for the implementation of the law this session. Last week the Appropriations Committee increased the budget allocation for developmental education from $4.5 to $11 Million. It is still unclear if the funds will be dedicated to transitional programs, those serving students that need the most remediation. CAHS will continue following this issue in the coming weeks and months, tracking the roll our of the reform.
"Policy background" is our article series explaining the basic elements of a piece of legislation or specific issue - a reference article of sorts.
A remedial education reform (PA 12-40) primer:
- Placement reform. Higher education institutions are required to use “multiple commonly accepted measures of skill” to decide if new students need remedial education. The legislators believed that the overreliance on Accuplacer, the testing software used to evaluate students, was forcing too many of them into remedial classes. Under the act, colleges need to use are least two measures to gauge the students’ level of knowledge.
- Limits to the amount of time that students can spend in remedial classes. Under PA 12-40, students cannot be enrolled in non-credit bearing remedial classes for more than one semester. (Classes in different subjects can be taken in different semesters.)
- Tiered, three level system for developmental education. Students will receive their remedial education either embedded in college level classes, through intensive remedial courses, or via transitional programs associated with the community college structure. The Board of Regents estimates that about a third of community college students who need developmental education will fall into each category.
The three remedial education tiers are:
Embedded remediation: Students who are close to being ready for college-level courses, but need some additional help to be fully up to speed. Students take part in college level courses for credit, but with embedded remedial education, attending a regular credit bearing class while receiving addition support from the teaching staff. Students can attend additional teaching hours, receive support from tutors, and undertake extra course work. The support is wedded into the subject of the class, so the student is not learning these concepts in a vacuum and can re-learn concepts without having to resort to a dedicated class.
Intensive remedial education: The embedded remedial education is viable for students who are close to being college ready. For those who will not be able to follow a course with additional math or English built in, PA 12-40 allows higher education institutions to provide intensive remedial classes. Community colleges are shifting their programs to shorter courses with more class hours and teacher support, often including additional lab time.
Transitional students: For those students who are not yet college ready and need more than one semester of remediation, PA 12-40 requires higher education institutions to create a pre-enrollment program to get them college ready. We discuss these models in depth in this report, and these students are the focus of our concern with remedial education reform.
In 2013, the Connecticut General Assembly provided additional program and budget support to help implement the requirements of PA 12-40, including:
- $250,000 for development of embedded and intensive model courses.
- $2 million for implementation of pilot programs for community college remedial students at all levels.
- Additional money for guidance counselors at each campus, as well as the creation of new faculty positions.
In addition, the Board of Regents dedicated $200,000 to develop transitional model strategies.
Have more questions? The Board of Regents have an excellent FAQ here.
A new report, released this morning by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, finds that while overall Connecticut's children are doing well compared to national standards, the state's black and Hispanic children remain far behind in important development measures. CAHS is the Casey Foundation's KIDS COUNT grantee for Connecticut.
The KIDS COUNT® policy report, Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children, ranked Connecticut ninth, using a first-of-its-kind index measuring child progress.
The report, which can be viewed here, contains both national and state-level data, and the new Race for Results index has been designed to see how children are progressing on key milestones across racial and ethnic groups. The indicators for the index were chosen based on the goal that all children should grow up in economically successful families, live in supportive communities and meet developmental, health and educational milestones. Examples of the indicators, reported by race, include the percent of babies born at normal birth-weight, the percent of young children enrolled in an early learning program, and the percent of high school students graduating on time. Each state is ranked, from 1 to 50, based on a combined "Race for Results" index score.
Overall, Connecticut ranks 9th in the nation. This high-rank masks the persistent and large disparities between races here in the state. Connecticut's white children ranked third compared to their peers across the 50 states, just behind New Jersey and Massachusetts. Black children ranked 16 out of 46 states in the index, and Connecticut's Hispanic children ranked 24 out of 47 states (in some states the population of black and Hispanic children was too small to provide enough data for comparison).
So while the main driver behind our high ranking is from white children doing very well, black and Hispanic children contribute by doing better than one-half to two-thirds of the rest of the country. The good news, however, is tempered when we look internally and compare the scores between white and minority children, to reveal a stark inequality in Connecticut. The differences in scores places Connecticut 39th (out of 46) when comparing white children to black children , and nearly last (46 out of 47) in the difference between white and Hispanic children.
We believe that the findings of this report highlights a troubling reality in the state -- that children of color are not receiving the same opportunities as their white peers. We also believe that the findings are a call to action, and that the index underscores the need to invest in high quality early childhood education, workforce development programs, and wrap-around supports for low-income and vulnerable parents.
We have prepared a short document that uses the report's indicators to compare Connecticut's children with children nationwide - the chart can be viewed here.
Statement from our Executive Director, Jim Horan, on House and Senate Passage of a Raise to the Minimum Wage (Senate Bill 32)
Hartford, CT - Today, both chambers of the Connecticut General Assembly passed SB 32, a bill which increases the state's minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017 and provides a meaningful raise to our lowest income families. With these votes, SB 32 is now being transmitted to the Governor, and once signed, the State of Connecticut will have the highest enacted minimum wage in the country. We applaud our state lawmakers for their leadership on this issue, and for providing a strong example to the rest of the country and Congress.
This increase in the minimum wage will directly help 140,000 workers, many who are women with children, move out of poverty. Under Connecticut's current minimum wage of $8.70, a minimum wage worker working full time, 52 weeks a year, earns only $18,096 a year. The federal poverty level for a family of three (for example a mother, and two children) is $19,790. With the increased minimum wage of $10.10, this same mother will now earn $21,008 a year. This higher wage means greater financial stability for families, reduced need for government safety net programs, and higher earnings for students who are working to pay for college.
We thank Governor Malloy for his leadership on raising the minimum wage to $10.10 and the members of both the House and Senate for passing Senate Bill 32. Connecticut is a leading state in addressing poverty and promoting economic success through progressive policy change, including the state EITC and paid sick days, and now this increase in the minimum wage.
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.
This afternoon the legislature's Education Committee placed Senate Bill 25, An Act Establishing the Office of Early Childhood (OEC), on its consent calendar -- a move which allows the bill to leave the committee and go to the Senate for a possible vote.
This development is an important first step for the OEC. The OEC currently exists only by Executive Order, with funding that was provided last year by the legislature. As those following this office may remember, last year the General Assembly failed to pass a bill that would create the OEC, but at the same time passed a budget that included reference to it and resources for its creation. (Read more about this here.)
It is critical that the legislature complete the work necessary to codify the Office of Early Childhood. The OEC represents an opportunity for real reform in the early care community. If fully implemented, this office will bring together early childhood and education programs from across five state agencies, and puts these programs under a team that is dedicated to creating a true system that works for children, parents, and providers. The failure to put the OEC securely in statute threatens the success of this effort.
We will continue to track SB 25, as well as other important early childhood bills including:
- SB 26, An Act Expanding Opportunities for Early Childhood Education -- contains parts of the Governor's initiative to expand access to preK;
- HB 5522, An Act Concerning School Readiness Funding -- increase the per child reimbursement for full-day school readiness programs; and
- Senate Resolution 9 and House Resolution 5 -- these resolutions approve the collective bargaining agreement between the Office of Early Childhood and the new child care worker union, includes raises in Care4Kids funding.
Keep checking the blog for future updates throughout the session.
As we continue to follow Governor Malloy's proposal to raise the state minimum wage to $10.10, and the President's effort to do the same on the Federal level, we wanted to share with you some great work that is being done by our friends at the Economic Policy Institute (you can read some of our previous blog coverage on the minimum wage campaign here).
One of the most pervasive myths about the minimum wage (second only to the fear that a raise is a job killer -- in a previous post we shared a number of resources that debunk this misconception) is that it is mostly being earned by teenagers who need spending money. This infographic produced by EPI shows us that this is not the case:
A 2012 analysis produced by EPI told a similar story; in that year EPI determined that if the minimum wage had been raised to $9.80 here in Connecticut over 80% of the effected workforce would have been individuals over age 20.
These minimum wage earners are also disproportionately women. This map from the National Women's Law Center shows that nationally almost two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women, while here in Connecticut, women are six out of every ten minimum wage earners.
So as we can see -- a minimum wage increase is a targeted reform that will help women and families in Connecticut, and across the country, move out of poverty and towards economic stability. Continue to follow us here on the blog, as well as on Twitter and Facebook, for updates on the state and federal campaign.
President Obama came to Connecticut March 5 to boost his proposal to increase the minimum wage to $10.10/hour. It was heartening to see the President speak passionately at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain about his “common sense” proposal to ensure that someone working full-time won’t earn wages below the poverty line.
President Obama was joined by Governor Dannel Malloy and three other New England governors who are proposing to raise state minimum wages. While the federal proposal faces an uphill battle in Congress (despite support from 71% of the public nationally), the state efforts in Connecticut and nearby states have a much better chance to become law.
Governor Malloy proposes to raise Connecticut’s minimum wage, which rose to $8.70/hour January 1 and rises to $9.00 in 2015, to $10.10 by 2017. Nationally, the minimum wage is stuck at $7.25. Even an increase to $10.10 per hour would only bring the minimum wage to the buying power it had in the late 1960s. Still, this is an important step in the right direction.
There is some concern, including a recent Congressional Budget Office report that an increase to $10.10 nationally could result in the loss of 500,000 jobs nationally. That report shows 16.5 million workers would benefit from an increase in wages, and bring 900,000 people above the poverty line. Despite the CBO report, most economists think that increasing the minimum wage has no discernable impact on jobs, as noted in this blog post by Doug Hall of EPI.
At CAHS, we’re particularly excited that Governor Malloy and the General Assembly are leading the way—combined with creation of a state EITC, paid sick days, moves toward universal access to pre-K, and post-secondary education proposals—to create a “two generation strategy” that boosts education and employment for low-income children and families. These are the policies Connecticut needs to reduce poverty and create a sustainable, long-term future that benefits all residents.
In 2013, Champlain College's Center for Financial Literacy gave Connecticut an "F" in its annual assessment of financial literacy for high school students. The report based this grade on the state's failure to require a personal finance class for teens - a graduation requirement 17 states now have in place. The report notes there have been several bills raised over the past six years that would have brought financial literacy into schools, but that none were enacted.
This session, the Banks Committee has raised House Bill 5490, An Act Concerning Financial Literacy, which requires the Department of Education and Board Regents to work with the Department of Banking on developing a plan to implement financial literacy training for all high school students in their senior year, and for all freshman enrolled at the state's universities and community colleges. The bill also includes provisions that would require additional information be provided to college students when they sign-up for credit cards from companies that advertise on campus and when they use campus ATMs. CAHS testified in support of this measure, while asking for a more robust financial education component to be considered that would be incorporated through out all four high school years, during a public hearing on March 11th. Financial literacy education is critical for the young people of our state, as the research shows students nationwide are heavily in debt and have very little understanding of financial products and how borrowing works.[i] Additional resources and information can be found in the linked testimony available above. We will continue to track this legislation throughout the session.
[i] Meta Brown, Wilbert van der Klaauw, Jaya Wen, and Basit Zafar. “Financial Education and the Debt Behavior of the Young”, Federal Reserve Bank of New York Staff Reports, no. 634, September 2013; revised February 2014.
Yesterday afternoon President Obama stopped by Central Connecticut State University in New Britain where he made his case for increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 (current federal minimum wage is set at $7.25, Connecticut's minimum wage is $8.25). Flanked by Governor Dannel Malloy, as well as the Governors from Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island, the President called on Congress to "give America a raise" and highlighted how the increase would help women and young people.
In our previous post, we discussed the the benefit a wage increase has on both our lowest-earning workers and the state's budget. Several news reports following the event, that can be viewed here and here, featured quotes from Democratic lawmakers indicating the high probability of the legislature passing a minimum wage increase during this legislative session. Tom Foley, the likely Republican candidate in this fall's governor's race, has stated he favors a minimum wage increase. There is also overwhelming public support, with the latest Quinnipiac poll showing voters backing the measure 3-to-1.
An increase in the minimum wage is an important first step in helping our state's families move out of poverty and towards economic security. In future posts, we will discuss other aspects of the President's economic agenda for 2014, which includes a more robust earned income tax credit with new support for single adults, additional job training programs, and expanded early childhood education opportunities.