Stuck in the middle with… half-day kindergarten

A Torrington, Conn. half-day kindergarten class (photo by Karla Woodworth, contributed by Torrington Early Childhood Collaborative)

The difference between wealthier towns and poorer ones in Connecticut is seen in the educational “achievement gap.” Today, we’re looking at one of the challenges of being in the middle. Specifically, the challenge of funding a full-day kindergarten program. The wealthier towns can afford all day kindergarten because of their tax base. The poorer cities have full-day K because they’re more eligible for grants and state and federal money. But districts like Torrington are stuck in the middle.

Here’s Will Stone’s story:

Most of the attention when we talk about disparity is on the top and bottom. But where else do you see the unique issues of being in the middle? Is your community forgotten, or stuck without resources? Comment here on the blog, or email us at

Report: More asthma emergency room visits for minority kids

A new report from the Connecticut Department of Public Health says between 2005 and 2009, the number of asthma-related emergency room visits for Hispanic children increased nearly 51%. The report on asthma also says black children had the highest annual rates of hospitalizations because of asthma. Eileen Boulay of the Department of Public Health says they’re trying to determine why so many of these kids wind up going to the hospital.

The report says conditions like pollution, inadequate housing, poor health care access and communication, and a lack insurance coverage can contribute to asthma problems. It says in 2011 the state Department of Public Health received funding from the CDC and later from the Affordable Care Act to address chronic disease prevention and health disparities. And it says the department plans to collect more detailed data on chronic diseases like asthma, and they plan to work more closely with health care providers and policy makers on the issue.

A stark economic dividing line: Rowayton & South Norwalk

In Connecticut, some very wealthy communities and some low-income neighborhoods are right next to each other. Looking at this map of median household incomes by census tract, some of those borders really jump out. One of the most striking is the difference between Rowayton and South Norwalk. Rowayton’s median household income is $153,036. In South Norwalk it’s $24,661.

WSHU’s Craig LeMoult visited both communities to see how the people there interact with one another. Here’s his story:

Residents of Rowayton and South Norwalk are probably no different than people all over this state – divided into communities that reflect where they stand in the state’s vast economic range. And there’s very little communication across that line.

Here’s an interactive map of the region and some data charts, created by the Connecticut State Data Center at UCONN. Another interactive map is here.

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Conn. joins states in trying to address achievement gap with more school hours

Connecticut education officials have announced plans to extend school hours in some of the state’s neediest schools beginning next year. The announcement was made today at a forum with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan in Washington. Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, Colorado and Tennessee will add at least 300 hours of learning a year to some low performing schools. U.S. Education Secretary Duncan says the goal is to boost student achievement in those states. The three year pilot program will affect about 20,000 students in 40 schools in the five states.

Governor Malloy says schools in Hartford, New Haven, Meriden, East Hartford and New London will participate. He says its a natural outgrowth of an education reform law passed by the state in May that included $100 million in new funding to help close the state’s academic achievement gap, one of the worst in the nation.

“The idea that we can tolerate different levels of achievement based on geography or race or wealth or home ownership simply doesn’t make any sense,” said Malloy.

Here’s Ebong Udoma’s story:

Connecticut education commissioner Stefan Pryor says teachers unions are helping make the longer school day happen.”Bridgeport has undertaken a shift method where they are beginning to look at how the teachers can arrive early or later and extend time with limited cost impact,” said Pryor.

Mark Waxenberg of the Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union says the important thing is not just adding time for time’s sake. “It’s how to use the time to advance the cause of public education.”

Federal, state and local district money will be used to cover the expanded learning time. The Ford Foundation and the National Center on Time and Learning are also chipping in resources. Here’s their press announcement.

Not everyone agrees that longer school days will make a difference. A report last year from the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education disputed the idea that American schools have fallen behind in classroom time. The report said students in high-performing countries like South Korea, Finland and Japan actually spend less time in school than most U.S. students.