Three Metro Regions in CT Are Among Top 30 Most Educated in the US

Three Connecticut metropolitan areas are among the top 30 “most educated cities in America,” according to a new analysis.  The Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk area ranked #12 in the nation, narrowly missing the top 10.  Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford placed 22nd, and New Haven-Milford ranked 29th in the ranking developed by the financial website WalletHub. The Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk region ranked fourth in the nation for the highest percentage of individuals who have earned Bachelor’s degrees and fifth in the percentage of “graduate or professional degree holders,” according to the analysis.  The New Haven area ranked second in the nation in the quality of universities.

Overall, the top 10 most educated cities were Ann Arbor, Washington DC, San Jose, Durham, Madison, Boston, Provo, San Francisco, Austin and Tallahassee, according to the analysis.

To identify the most and least educated cities in America, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 150 most populated U.S. metropolitan statistical areas, or MSAs, across two key dimensions, including “Educational Attainment” and “Quality of Education & Attainment Gap.”  Data used to create the overall ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and U.S. News & World Report.

The Ann Arbor, MI, metro area has the highest share of bachelor’s degree holders aged 25 and older, 52.7 percent, which is 3.8 times higher than in Visalia-Porterville, CA, the metro area with the lowest at 13.8 percent.

Economic Policy Institute analysts point out that one way to strengthen an economy is to attract well-paying employers “by investing in education and increasing the number of well-educated workers.” In states where workers have the least schooling, for instance, the median wage is $15 an hour compared with $19 to $20 an hour in states where 40 percent or more of the working population hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.

A similar study by WalletHub earlier this year, comparing states, ranked Connecticut as having the fourth highest educated state population, just behind Maryland, Massachusetts and Colorado.


Achieve Hartford Aims to Push for Progress in Hartford Schools, From Top Down and Bottom Up

In the aftermath of Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin’s State of the City address and a comprehensive three-part investigative series published by the Hartford Courant examining the city’s decades-long response to the Sheff decision on integration and quality education, Achieve Hartford! is preparing for its second annual fundraising event and intensifying efforts to encourage sustainable education progress in the city. “Compare the mayor’s role in addressing the fiscal crisis, promoting regionalization, union renegotiations, the fight against blight, or key quality of life issues like resolving a flawed 311 system,” the organization said this month. “In each of these areas as well as several others, Mayor Bronin and his leadership team came together publicly and with a clear mandate directed from the top across departments to solve problems, making the combined whole greater than the individual roles and parts.  Now is a time where city leaders are called to step up as education leaders.”

In promoting their second annual “Inspire Hartford” event slated for May 11, organizers are urging attendees to “see innovation in action” and hear “uplifting stories of success.” They add: “learn how innovative ideas and new technology are training the next generation of bright dreamers and big thinkers. Get educated—and be inspired.”

The keynote speaker will be Charles Best, who leads, the pioneering crowdfunding nonprofit where anyone can help a classroom in need. At, public school teachers create classroom project requests and donors can choose the projects they want to support. Best launched the platform in 2000 out of a Bronx public high school where he taught history. Today, more than two thirds of U.S. public schools have at least one teacher who has created a project request on, and 1.8 million people have donated $360 million to classroom projects reaching 16 million students.

Achieve Hartford!, which was formed in 2008, is an independent nonprofit organization founded by business and community leaders “with the belief that strong schools lead to a strong city,” noting that  “Mayors, Boards of Education and Superintendents change over time.”

“We are doing everything we can to lay out a blueprint for systemic change in Hartford that can help guide collective efforts to improve schools, and we look forward to working with the mayor, the next superintendent, and so many others critical to putting education reform in Hartford back on track,” the organization said earlier this month, while noting that Bronin indicated “strengthening our neighborhood schools must be the single most important priority for our new Superintendent, and I pledge to be a full partner.”

Last week, the search for a new Superintendent for the city was narrowed to two candidates: Acting Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez and Capital Region Education Council (CREC) Assistant Superintendent for Operations Tim Sullivan.

Achieve Hartford warned that “If Hartford leaders, stakeholders, and families put the responsibility for fixing Hartford schools solely on the new superintendent, we should not expect either finalist to be successful.  The responsibility must be shared amongst the Board of Education, City Hall, the corporate community, philanthropy, nonprofit partners, and even our robust institutions of higher education.”

The organizations stresses that it works “toward improving education in our city by innovating ways to address some of our toughest issues, activating the community to take ownership of problem solving, and holding our leaders and educators accountable for advancing student achievement.”

Summarizing recent activities, the organization’s website says succinctly, “there is a lot of conversation but, ultimately, not much action.”

“Developing great schools require not only that the school system operate with excellence, but also our entire community,” the organization’s website points out. “It takes a village to educate a child, and it is our job to help stakeholders play their unique set of roles for school improvement now, and long into the future.”

The May 11 fundraising event will take place at the Hartford Hilton.

Education Is Key to Improving State of Black Hartford, New Report Says

"The State of Black Hartford,"  published more than two decades after a landmark sociological text originally published in 1994, squarely focuses on education as the overriding issue on which Hartford’s future, and Connecticut’s, will be determined, flatly stating that “the future of Hartford rests with how we educate our children so they can contribute to the state and survive as productive citizens.” “The mis-education of children is a human rights struggle. Children of color are our children and the thousands that are failing can no longer be tolerated. We have a moral, ethical and economic responsibility to educate children in Hartford. Hartford’s future is our children and they deserve an opportunit to compete and survive,” the new report’s conclusion states.

The report, published in recent weeks and unveiled at a public session in Hartford, points out that “the city remains challenged with high unemployment rates, uneven public education, missed opportunities in economic development, and a work force that is not adequately prepared to achieve sustainable living wages.  There are new forms of discrimination where children graduate from high school without a real education to support themselves.”

Observing that “education in Hartford has been a priority for many years,” the report goes on to suggest what should happen next.  “Leaders with great intentions have tried, but it is time to require and invite the involvement and participation from parents and families as partners in their children’s education. There is no other way to address the needs of children. Our society has made it very clear it will not take care of them.”state-of-black-hartford-spotlight-2

The 220 page report, made possible through a $36,000 grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, was written by volunteers from a diverse group of disciplines, including educators, social workers and ministers. It was published by the Urban League of Greater Hartford, Inc.  Stanley F. Battle, director of the University of St. Joseph's master's of social work program was Editor; Ashley L. Golden-Battle was content editor.

The State of Black Hartford 2016 addresses challenges that African Americans face at both the national and local level through a series of briefs and chapters.  The chapter authors “pay close attention to how Blacks are perceived by the public” and “incorporate barriers to education, economic stability, health and welfare.”  Metrics and case studies are used "to better understand Black Hartford."  Chapter authors include Peter Rosa, Amos Smith, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, Maris Dillman, Rodney L. Powell, Yan Searcy, Kimberly Hardy, Yvonne Patterson, Eunice Matthews, Clyde Santana, Trevor Johnson, and Rev. Shelley Best.

Noting that Hartford holds the “distinction of being both the capital for one of the wealthiest states in the country and being one of the poorest cities in country,” among the key observations highlighted in the report:

  • “We need family stability, livable wages, economic development, and education to fully bridge the achievement gap.”
  • “Hartford is a great place to work—the Greater Hartford community is aware of this fact. It is important to make sure that Hartford residents receive some of those benefits.”
  • “Economic growth and business development are the foundation for Hartford’s survival. With downtown development and the presence of universities, it is time to develop new business incubators in the arts, home repair, healthcare, biotechnology, and business.”
  • “In Hartford, 37 percent of the population is Black yet they make up only 10 percent of the population throughout the rest of Connecticut and 12 percent of the population in the United States (DHHS, 2012). The population of Hartford is younger than other Connecticut and U.S. cities with over 70 percent of the residents being under 45 years old (DHHS, 2012).”
  • “The lifeblood of Hartford depends on education, business, employment, economic status and mortality, housing and food.”

Issues including criminal justice, housing, healthcare, child welfare are also discussed in depth in the report.  Case studies, anecdotal evidence and data are highlighted throughout the report.  The central role of faith, and religious institutions is also the focus of the report, in the context that “presently Black Churches are still striving to meet increasing demands with decreasing resources.” urban-league

That uphill effort is reflected in the report indicating that “the Black Church cannot continue to operate as an independent agent with sparse budgets drawn from the meager donations of an already struggling congregation.  Clergy and congregations need to build coalitions with other churches…”  The importance is underscored as the report stresses that “active involvement of faith leaders as community leaders in the ongoing struggle for social, political, and economic justice is no less necessary now than it has ever been.”

The report bluntly states that “…if we do not educate children from urban school districts, the future of this state will be at serious risk. The achievement gap continues to expand with little improvement. It is true that there has been some improvement in graduation rates. However, many graduating seniors from urban school districts must endure remedial work if they decide to attend a two or four-year institution.”

Education is viewed as essential to solving a range of persistent challenges facing the city’s African-American community and city residents: “The challenges that confront Hartford include the overarching issue of poverty.  While some efforts to address economic development, crime, and financial stability have been discussed inchart this book, education is the ultimate determinate of success.  In order for Hartford to excel, the population must be educated. The emerging majority must be able to support itself and children require cutting edge educational opportunities.”

Among the data points:

  • One half of high school graduates need help when they start a community college or a state university. Sixty-three percent of Hartford high school graduates require a remedial coursework.
  • Slightly less than one third of Black males and slightly more than one third of Latino males to begin college education at public institutions of higher education complete their education within six years.

The report notes that “Frequently, urban youth can’t afford to attend community colleges, so how will they be able to earn a four- year degree?  Hartford has the right idea to focus on education and economic development. Children need their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and the community to be successful.”

The report also calls for crime and homicide rates to be addressed at the community level. “There are families who have lived in Hartford for over 30 years and all of their children graduated from the Hartford Public school system. Their children are successful.  How did they do it and why don’t we ask them?”

Economic development, the report explains, is another pivotal area that requires attention that differs from past efforts: “Blacks must become a major part of the growth strategy of these neighborhoods. The promise will only work if there is a diverse group of investors with Black investors in these zones. Black people must become owners in the city in greater numbers.”

Dr. Stanley F. Battle, educator, author and civic activist is currently Director/Professor of the MSW Program in the Department of Social Work and Latino Community Practice at the University of Saint Joseph.  Previously, Dr. Battle was the Interim President at Southern Connecticut State University, Chancellor at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NCA&T) and President of Coppin State University in Baltimore.

The mission of the Urban League of Greater Hartford is “To reduce economic disparities in our communities through programs, services and educational opportunities.”

State’s Educational Technology Commission Plans to Consider Changes to It’s Scope and Purpose

The website of the Connecticut Commission for Educational Technology explains that “as require by law, the Commission “reports annually; on its activities and progress made in the attainment of the state-wide technology goals, and provides recommendations” to the state legislature. At the next Commission meeting, scheduled for next week, the Commission is expected to “take a look at any changes that Commission members feel should be addressed in terms of our scope and purpose.” Nine months ago, in December 2015, the Commission produced an “annual report’ covering the years 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 – somewhat less frequent than “annual.”  The Commission has met twice this year, on March 7 and June 13, and plans to meet again before year’s end on September 12 and December 5.ctedtech-logo

The Commission for Educational Technology was established at the turn of the century.  In 1999, then Lt. Governor M. Jodi Rell submitted to Governor John Rowland the results of a three-month study that she led on computer readiness in Connecticut’s schools and libraries.  The Lt. Governor’s report made nineteen recommendations “to ensure Connecticut’s students and teachers are prepared to meet the information technology needs of the next century.”  Among them was the creation of the Connecticut Commission on Education Technology, which was proposed by Gov. Rowland and became law in 2000.  Lt. Gov. Rell convened the first meeting in August, sixteen years ago.

An independent group composed of twenty leaders from education, business, information technology, and government, the Commission is empowered by the General Assembly to envision, coordinate, and oversee the management and successful integration of technology in Connecticut's schools, libraries, colleges and universities, according to the organization’s website. Commission members include representatives from the University of Connecticut, Office of Consumer Counsel, Office of Policy and Management, Department of Economic and Community Development, State Library, Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education, Connecticut Library Association, Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges, Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, and Connecticut Council of Small Towns.

reportAs the state's principal educational technology advisor, the website explains, “the Commission works to ensure the effective and equitable use of resources, without duplication, and engender cooperation and collaboration in creating and maintaining technology-based tools for use by all the people of Connecticut.”

The Commission’s “long-range” strategic plan was adopted on December 19, 2002.  Goals and objectives included “communicate the promise and excitement of educational technology to the public,” “implement a development program to secure non-public support for educational technology initiatives,” and “provide educational equity and reduce the digital divide.”

Fourteen members were present at the June 2016 Commission meeting, when it was announced during a 90-minute session that the Connecticut Education Network funding was being reduced from just under $3 million to just over $1 million for fiscal year 2017.  Officials said they were “anticipating that we will ultimately generate enough revenue to match former funding levels.”  The website includes minutes of the meeting, as well as notes from the advisory councils that provide information to the Commission.

The Commission has four advisory councils:

  • eLearning & Content - The eLearning & Content Advisory Council was established to provide to the Commission ideas and information about educational content and services that would benefit Connecticut learners.
  • Professional Development - The Professional Development Advisory Council was established to provide the Commission with a description of options for best preparing teachers and faculty members to optimally use technology in a learning environment.
  • iCONN - The Library Advisory Council provides the Commission with information and suggestions for enhancing iCONN, Connecticut's Digital Library.
  • Network Infrastructure & Services - The Network Infrastructure & Services Advisory Council advises the Commission on matters relating to the Connecticut Education Network (CEN), and suggests technical services and enhancements that might benefit CEN users. Established in 2000, the Connecticut Education Network (CEN) is part of the State's secure "Nutmeg Network", whose purpose is to deliver reliable, high-speed internet access, data transport, and value added services to its members throughout Connecticut.

As part of the advisory council updates provided in June, Commission members heard about a new state law that will take effect on October 1, which imposes requirements on school districts regarding notification to parents about the use of student data, and includes provisions that govern contracts that schools enter into with education technology providers and consultants to ensure protection of student information, records and content.  The Commission also noted that it has established a Twitter account, listserv, and updated website.

The location of the scheduled Sept. 12 meeting is not yet available.

UConn is One of 10 Colleges Selected for Program to Recruit Minority Male Teachers

According to data collected by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), 80 percent of PK-12 teachers nationwide are white, middle-class women, and more than 40 percent of public schools have no teachers of color. Studies by the National Center for Education Statistics report that 2 percent of public school teachers are black males and fewer are Hispanic males. Forty percent of Connecticut public school students will never have a teacher who is not white, according to the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC), noting that "although minority students account diverseteachersfor over a third of Connecticut's public school students, only 7 percent of the state's teachers and 2 percent of the administrators in Connecticut's public schools are minorities."

If those numbers are to change and reflect a more diverse teacher population, recruitment of teacher candidates will be a pivotal component, education officials point out.

With that objective in mind, the University of Connecticut has been selected as one of 10 universities nationwide to participate in a program that seeks to increase the diversity of the teacher candidate pool. The Neag School of Education at UConn as part of the Networked Improvement Community (NIC), an AACTE initiative aimed at recruiting more black and Hispanic men into teacher preparation programs.

UConn, a member of the 800-member AACTE, was selected to participate in the organization’s first Networked Improvement Community project, which seeks to increase the diversity of the nation’s teacher candidate pool. The other institutions selected are Boston University, California State University Fullerton, Florida Atlantic University, MidAmerica Nazarene University, Northeastern Illinois University, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, University of Saint Thomas, Western Kentucky University, and William Paterson University of New Jersey.

Saroja Barnes, senior director for professional issues at AACTE, says universities were selected for the program based on great diversity within the school districts and community they serve, alignment of the project’s goals to the existing strategic initiatives and mission of the institution, and strategic attention to enrollment trends.chalkboard-MINORITY

According to a study last year by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, 82 percent of candidates who received bachelor’s degrees in education in 2009-10 and 2010-11 were white. By contrast, census figures show that close to half of all children under 5 in 2008 were members of a racial or ethnic minority, The New York Times reported.

In the 2013 study, AACTE surveyed close to 700 colleges and universities that train just under two-thirds of new teachers, finding that few candidates graduate with credentials to teach math, science, special education or English as a second language, all subjects that experts say are increasingly important to prepare students for jobs and to meet the demands of an increasingly diverse student population.

A report by the Center for American Progress, Increasing Teacher Diversity: Strategies to Improve the Teacher Workforce indicated in 2011 that “increasing the number of teachers of color is not only a matter of a philosophical commitment to diversity in career opportunities.

Teachers of color provide real-life examples to minority students of future career paths. In this way, increasing the number of current teachers of color may be instrumental to increasing the number of future teachers of color. And while there are effective teachers of many races, teachers of color have demonstrated success in increasing academic achievement for engaging students of similar backgrounds.”  Adds CREC, "It is important that all children have access to positive role models from a variety of backgrounds in order to be successful in an increasingly global society."

Thomas DeFranco, Dean of the Neag School, says goals for expanding the diversity of teacher preparation within the Neag School of Education align closely with the objectives of AACTE. Those efforts, according to UConn Today, include the creation of the Teacher Prep Academy in Bulkeley High School in Hartford; designation of an academic advisor specifically charged with recruiting minority students into the Integrated Bachelor’s/Master’s Program; and providing a variety of scholarship opportunities, such as the Connecticut State Minority Teacher Incentive Grants.

More than 50 member institutions in 25 states applied to be a part of the inaugural NIC and 10 were selected following a rigorous review by the AACTE Committee on Professional Preparation and Accountability.

State Comparison Ranks Connecticut Students #4 in College Prep Test Results

Where have all the smart kids gone? Apparently, north. A state-by-state comparison map compiled by the website FindTheBest shows that when it comes to American students' standardized test scores, the North is dominating the South. And Connecticut is a top ten state, ranking at number 4.

The students with the best scores were in the states of New Hampshire, Minnesota and Massachusetts. Most of the New England states - except Maine and Rhode Island - reached the top ten.  New York was lower down the list, with a score in the 70's.  The lowest scores came out of Arkansas (60) and Mississippi (59).

To create the map, researchers looked at each state's scores for the SAT, ACT, AP and National Assessment of Educational Progress tests, using data from each state's department of education.  Each state was assigned a score based on the comparison, out of 100.

The top ranked states:

  1. New Hampshire 100states
  2. Massachusetts 98
  3. Minnesota 98
  4. Connecticut 96
  5. New Jersey 95
  6. Wisconsin 95
  7. Vermont 94
  8. North Dakota 92
  9. South Dakota 92
  10. Iowa 92
  11. Ohio 90
  12. Missouri 90
  13. Kansas 90
  14. Utah 89
  15. Pennsylvania 86
  16. Illinois 86


CT Teacher Shortage Areas Identified For Next School Year

If you’re looking to pursue teaching in Connecticut schools, the State Department of Education (SDE) provides a road map of where the demand is likely to be greatest. SDE has announced the Certification Shortage Areas for 2014-15 for Connecticut schools, and virtually all reflect continued areas of shortage – with only one new entry on the list. The subjects identified are:Teacher-Classroom-Bing

  1. world languages, 7-12;
  2. bilingual education, PK-12;
  3. school library and media specialist;
  4. speech and language pathologist;
  5. technology education, PK-12;
  6. comprehensive special education, K-12;
  7. science, 7-12;
  8. Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, PK-12;
  9. intermediate administrator;
  10. mathematics, 7-12;

Each year in the fall, SDE surveys certified educational positions to determine the number of teaching and administrative vacancies that existed before the state of the school year, and the vacancies that remained after the start of school. Results from the survey are used to determine the shortage areas for the following school year – in this case, for 2014-15. Nine of the 10 shortage areas identified for 2014-15 were also shortage areas in the previous year. TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages), PK-12 will be the only new shortage area in the 2014-15 school year.

The shortages may get worse before they get better.

The SDE report also indicated that 18.2 percent of all certified staff who were employed as of October 2013 are eligible for retirement. Over the next five years, the report indicated, “this percentage will increase to 26.9 percent. It is significant that a number of the shortage areas also have particularly high percentages of teachers who will be eligible for retirement over the next five years.”

The survey noted that 61 percent of positions that remained vacant on October 1 were due to the lack of qualified candidates, a level that is unchanged from the previous year. The most frequent reason cited for not identifying a qualified candidate was “late postings that affected the size and quality of the applicant pool.”

The Data Bulletin that detailed the survey findings was developed by the Performance Office of the Bureau of Data Collection, Research and Evaluation within SDE.

Majority of Students in 17 States Are Low Income, Study Finds; Connecticut Schools Among Most Income Diverse, Except in Cities

Echoing concerns that “a house divided against itself cannot stand,” a new study is raising alarm about the dramatically increasing percentage of low income students in American public schools – and the implications for the education of a generation of school children.

A new study from the Southern Education Foundation shows that 17 U.S. states have reached an unenviable tipping point: the majority of students in their public school systems receive free lunches — effectively indicating that the public school systems in these states can now be described as institutions that mostly serve the poor, rather than public institutions that serve a representative cross-section of their state’s population.

As states coast-to-coast reach that new imbalance – particularly in the South and West – the Northeast, including Connecticut, continue to have the smallest percentages of low income students in their public schools, according to the most recent data used in the study, from 2011. The states with majority-poor school systems include almost the entire South, as well as Oregon, Nevada, and California.

The study pointed out that “from 2001 through 2011, the numbers of low income students in the nation’s public schools grew by 32 percent – an increase of more than 5.7 million children. As a result, low income students attending the nation’s percent low income in schoolspublic schools moved from 38 percent of all students in 2001 to 48 percent in 2011.”

In Connecticut, the percentage of low income students in public schools was only 34 percent, among the lowest percentages in the nation.  Only four states had a lower or equal percentage – New Hampshire (25%), North Dakota (32%), New Jersey (33%) and Massachusetts (34%).

The largest percentage of low income students were in Mississippi (71%), New Mexico (68%), Louisiana (66%), Oklahoma (60%), Arkansas (60%), Georgia (57%), Kentucky (57%), Florida (56%), Alabama (55%), Tennessee (55%), South Carolina (55%) and California (54%).

Overall, the rates of low income students in the public schools, by region, was 53 percent in the South, 50 percent in the West, 44 percent in the Midwekids at school-st and 40 percent in the Northeast.  The national average was 48 percent. As the report pointed out, “in 2011 the nation stood within only two percentage points of enrolling a majority of low income students in public schools across 50 states.”

The study  also compared the rates of low income students in cities, suburbs and rural areas in each state.  In each of the nation’s four regions, a majority of students attending public schools in the cities were eligible for free or reduced lunch.

The Northeast had the highest rates for low income school children in cities: 71 percent. The next highest rate, 62 percent, was found in Midwestern cities. The South had the third highest percentage of low income students in the cities – 59 percent.  In Connecticut, 62 percent of students in the cities were low income students, compared with 26 percent in the suburbs and 13 percent in rural areas.

“Low income students are concentrated in the nation’s cities but are by no measure confined to only cities,” the study noted.  “Forty percent or more of all public school children in the nation’s suburbs, towns and rural areas are low income students.”

by region The report, released in October 2013,  indicated that low income students “generally are more likely to score lowest on school tests, fall behind in school, fail to graduate, and never receive a college degree,” and yet “the growth in the number of low income students far out-stripped the growth in per pupil spending in public schools during the last decade in every region of the country, except the Northeast.”  The nations per pupil expenditure (adjusted for inflation) in public schools increased by only 14 percent – less than half the rate of growth in the numbers of low income students,” according to the report.

The study concludes by stating that “The trends of the last decade strongly suggest that little or nothing will change for the better if schools and communities continue to postpone addressing the primary question of education in America today: what does it take and what will be done to provide low income students with a good chance to suc556419_282077021867473_1934636139_nceed in public schools? It is a question of how, not where, to improve the education of a new majority of students.”

The Southern Education Foundation’s mission is to advance equity and excellence in education for low income students and students of color.  The Foundation’s “core belief is that education is the vehicle by which all students get fair chances to develop their talents and contribute to the common good.”

Free Summer Meals Program for Children Aims to Provide Nutrition, Sustain Academic Progress

Turns out, there is a free lunch.  In fact, Connecticut’s summer meal program for children 18 and under is providing hundreds of lunches – and breakfasts.  As Governor Malloy points out in a radio commercial now being broadcast around the state, 3 in 4 Connecticut children who could receive free meals aren’t doing so.

Officials say that the absence of good nutrition over the summer – when children are out of school and school lunch programs are unavailable - may contribute to children slipping somewhat in their educational progress.  “Summer learning loss,” they say, may be caused in part by “summer nutrition loss.”  The free Summer Meals program aims to turn that around.

The statistics are startling.  There are 100,000 children in Connecticut who don’t know where their next meal is coming from, according to Lieut. Gov. Nancy Wyman, who helped to kickoff the statewide initiative, and joins the Governor in the radio announcement.   That is why more than 400 locations around the state,  including churches, parks, schools and even some pools, are serving free meals to children throughout the summer afree lunchs part of the summer meals program and the state’s ongoing End Hunger Connecticut initiative.

A new interactive website,, was launched at the beginning of the summer that lists all the locations serving the meals.  The site allows people to simply type in a town or zip code to see a list of locations in that area that offer the meals.

Children and teens, under 18, do not have to be receiving free or reduced price school meals during the school year to eat a free, nutritious, summer meal and/or snack at participating locations.  Connecticut ranks 5th in country, as of 2012, for such programs, with  about 25% of children who are eligible are receiving the breakfasts.  “We need to do better,” said Stefan Pryor, Commissioner of the State Department of Education, when the program began just after the school year ended.

The program website notes that “Only 25.8 of every 100 low-income students that participate in school lunch also participate in summer nutrition. If participation reached 40 percent, an additional 19,558 students would be reached and that would bring an additional $1.35 million federal dollars into the state.”

By heightening visibility of this program, the Connecticut No Kid Hungry campaign and its partners aim to increase participation in the state’s 2013 summer meals program by 9 percent. Flyers and other program material is available on-line to help local organizers get the word out in their communities.

In launching the program, “Blitz Days” were held in Hartford, Groton, Naugatuck, Norwalk and Waterbury to bring attention to the initiative, which is mostly funded by the federal government.  CT News Junkie has reported that program organizers don’t ask too many questions of those coming to receive meals. Income guidelines are not required because the idea is not to discourage anyone from receiving a meal, state officials said.

Last year the state of Connecticut received 20120717-ShareOurStrength_CT-0062-slider$1.55 million to administer the program. The bulk of that or $1.3 million was used to purchase food. Summer meals are paid for by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Connecticut State Department of Education works with the USDA to reimburse sponsors for the summer meals they provide to children and teens, under 18, at participating summer meals locations.

For details on dates and times that meals and/or snacks are being served at particular locations, individuals can use the Location Finder, text “CTmeals” to 877877, or call, toll-free, 2-1-1.  It is anticipated that the program will continue until the start of the school year in late August.

Veterans Education and Career Training Gains New Focus in Connecticut

With veterans returning from active duty in increasing numbers and seeking to pursue higher education or achieve a place in the workforce, efforts are underway in Connecticut to respond.

The Veterans Vocational Training Program (VVTP), is a new initiative of Hartford-based Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network (CPBN).  The program offers veterans,free of charge, two different programs of study.  Media Arts, which focuses on the Adobe programs Photoshop, Illustrator, and In-Design, is offered during the Fall 2013 semester, which begins on August 26.   The other program seeks to develop the talents of budding video producers and editors.

Both programs incluveteransde 90 hours of classroom instruction, professional portfolio development, and an additional 60 hours of hands-on learning. In addition, the VVTP helps potential employers connect with veterans seeking specific employment opportunities.

There will be an Open House for veterans to learn more about the program on July 18 at5:30 PM at CPBN, located at 1049 Asylum Avenue in Hartford.  Inquiries about the program can be directed to Major (ret) Tim Krusko, Program Manager, at 860-275-7337 or email  Questions can also be directed to CPBN’s Director of Education Services, Donna Sodipo at or 860.275.7337.  Individual tours of the facilities are also available.

The initiative has quickly developed a wide range of partners that will help CPBN provide veterans with a real-world education while increasing their employment opportunities. CPBN is also reaching out to colleges and universities for referrals of veterans who might benefit from the VVTP as a no-cost way to supplement or enhance their current media education experience through hands-on learning. The VTTP is not restricted to Connecticut residents.

The Fall 2013 semester starts August 26, 2013 and ends December 19, 2013.  The Spring semester will run January 13 through May 12, 2014.  The goal is to have 85 percent of program participants successfully employed after completing the program.

In a separate effort, the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges, which includes 16 higher education institutions in the state, recently held a one day, state-of-the-art training for over 100 campus participants from throughout Connecticut that focused on military culture and serving student veterans.

Offered by the Center for Deployment Psychology, the training was designed to increase competency in the concerns, challenges, culture and experience of service members and veterans attending college. Mental health professionals as well as non-clinical university staff specializing in student affairs, financial aid, disability services, housing, campus security and oveterans learning labthers attended.

The training covered:

·  Culture and Experience of Service Members & Veterans on Campus

·  The Deployment Cycle and its Impact on Students

·  Reintegration on Campus

·  Outreach Strategies and Group Exercise

·  Overview of Treatments for PTSD on Campus

The training was offered free of charge to every non-profit public and private college in Connecticut.  It funded by a grant from the Bob Woodruff Foundation and was offered through a collaboration of the American Council on Education and the Center for Deployment Psychology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.  The event was part of an ongoing effort coordinated by CCIC “to help campus representatives learn best practices and gain an understanding of resources available to make the campus experience successful for those who made the commitment to protect and serve our country.”

The VTTP is made possible through the generous corporate sponsorship of organizations and businesses including the Wounded Warrior Project, Newman’s Own Foundation, Walmart Foundation, the SBM Charitable Foundation, Farmington Bank Community Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  Wounded Warrior Project awarded CPBN with a $250,000 grant for the economic empowerment of wounded warriors and their family members. CPBN is currently seeking additional grant programs to help grow the program beyond the first year and replicate it in other parts of the country.

The VVTP program is a component of CPBN’s soon-to-be-completed $3.5 million Learning Lab, which will also offer education programming aimed at Hartford public school students. CPBN will dedicate a state-of-the-art learning space to these initiatives, to include studios, sound rooms, classrooms, offices, and video production and media arts facilities.