Cardel came to the U.S. from Guyana in January.

Urban Teachers Paid Less, Face More Challenges

On average, teachers in the state’s three cities Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport earn about $3,000 to $5,000 less than teachers working in suburban schools – because cities don’t have the funding resources. Sharon Palmer, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, whose union represents the cities’ teachers and others, said that another reason for the compensation gap is that the state of Connecticut has not fulfilled its funding commitment to support schools in cities and towns. For years, cities and towns have lobbied the state General Assembly for full funding for education, as a way to boost teacher salaries and provide incentives to keep teachers working in urban districts. But the mandate has never been met. According to new teacher contract data, a first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree earns about $42,000 a year in the three big cities compared with a starting teacher in Greenwich, Darien and Westport, whose entry-level pay ranges from $45,000 to $51,000.

Zanira Abubakar

At The Co-Op High School It’s Arts Not Sports

When it comes to being physically fit only 12 percent of the students at the Cooperative High School get a passing grade. New Haven’s high schools had widely different scores in the state’s 2011 physical fitness test—- with an average of 37.5 percent passing the test district wide, according to state Department of Education data. Students at James Hillhouse High School had the highest rate – 57 percent. The statewide average: 51 percent. Fallon Daniels, Co-op’s administrative intern and a former science teacher at the school, acknowledged that the focus of the school is not on physical education.

Dashaan wants to be a sports writer.

Little League Says New Safety Measures Make Sport Safer

A year after the Little League International Baseball & Softball Association banned metal and some composite bats, a spokesman for the group said injuries have steadily declined because of an array of safety measures put in place. The spokesman, Chris Downs, said the measures include the elimination of the on deck circle so players can no longer warm up on the field, improved chest, head and face protectors and requiring use of league-licensed composite bats with a 2 ¼ inch barrels. He said serious injuries occur when a player is hit by a pitch, slides into a base the wrong way, or is hit by a ball that comes off a bat too fast. But a recent report shows that tens of thousands of children continue to be injured playing baseball, and at least one state lawmaker has tried to toughen rules on bats. Of the 627,000 baseball injuries occurring each year, 117,000 of them occur in children age 5 to 14, according to the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the University of North Carolina.

Victoria at camp — her work finished.

Should Teachers Be Rewarded For Good Student Test Scores?

In 2011, students at Tolland, Ellington, Stafford and Somers high performed either at or above state average on the SATs, while the teachers in all four of these districts received pay roughly below the salary of the average Connecticut teacher. According to the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, the average maximum salary for a Connecticut teacher with a bachelor’s degree is $66,630, and the average maximum salary for a teacher with a master’s degree is $78,317. In Tolland, Ellington, Stafford, and Somers, teachers with a bachelor’s receive a maximum salary averaging at $63,905, and teachers with a master’s receive a maximum salary averaging at $75,834. “I do think our teachers are underpaid, but it’s different in small towns,” said Sandy Fowler, chairwoman of the Stafford Board of Education “a huge portion of our budget does go to education.”

Gov. Dannel Malloy’s education reform bill approved by the General Assembly in May put a heavy emphasis on improving student performance in Connecticut classrooms and making teachers more accountable for those outcomes. The reform package includes new teacher evaluations that will include teach input.

Rob, Patrick and Johnny taking notes.

Do Declining Crime Rates Have Diversion Programs To Thank?

From the mid-1970s until 1993, juvenile crime was on the rise. That trend has shifted in the last 20 years, as juvenile crime has dropped by about 30 percent nationally. In Connecticut, juvenile court cases have been dropping steadily, leveling off last year due to the addition of 16-year-olds into the juvenile system. But the trend of a declining juvenile crime is expected to continue. Abby Anderson, director of the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance, attributes the decline to state intervention programs such as Families with Service Needs (FWSN) referrals, which are an alternative to prosecution for youths who commit non-violent crimes, such as truancy, defiance of school rules, or engaging in immoral or indecent conduct.

Yes, Rachel gets her interview!

CT Suicide Rate Hits 20-Year High

Suicides in Connecticut totaled 371—with more than one per day, according to recent report from the state’s medical examiner. Of the total, 139 of them were committed by men aged 40-59 and more than one-half were committed in the home in 2011, the report stated. Connecticut is near the bottom among states for the suicide rate, but the rate has risen more than 30 percent over the last five years and last year was the highest rate in 20 years. “It’s tough times right now…between the war and loss of job availability,’’ and that “the economy doesn’t help,’’ said Andrea Duarte, behavioral health program manager at the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. No one thing can cause someone to consider suicide, said Duarte, explaining that those affected tend to have a history of major depression and/or have experienced financial problems, loss of job, or loss of relationship, for example.

Ross (center) reporting his story.

Elementary School Students Will Scrub With Soap And Water

This coming school year students in Flanders and Lillie B. Hanes elementary schools will be washing their hands with soap and water. That’s because the East Lyme school administration has removed Purell from the elementary schools, due to safety concerns about the product’s alcohol content, which is 62 percent. In addition, the administration has decided to replace the standard Purell dispensers in the middle and high schools with a less concentrated foam sanitizer. East Lyme is apparently the first district in Connecticut to remove hand sanitizers from schools. In Florida some school districts have asked that the product not be brought in for use by students or faculty, according to web reports.

Gabrielle reading her work.

Merged Middle School Sees Uptick In School Policy Violations

Facing a tight budget, the Naugatuck school system decided to try something new in the 2010-2011 school year – merging the two public middle schools into one. Instead of the west side attending City Hill Middle School, and the east side attending Hillside Middle School, all of the town’s seventh- and eighth-grade students would attend City Hill. While this helped to resolve budget problems, it also caused a surge in serious offenses by students in the merged school, data from the state Education Department indicates. Between the 2008-09 and 2010-11 school years, incidents of fighting and battery quadrupled, while school policy violations doubled to almost 1,000 incidents, according to the data. The spike in serious incidents does not stem from an increase in the total student population.

Angelica tries out a video camera during our field trip to the Hartford Courant.

Trauma, Psychological Disorders Common In Delinquent Girls

The majority of girls in Connecticut who are committed to the state for delinquency or placed on juvenile parole have diagnosed trauma or psychological disorders, according to data from the state DCF Bureau of Juvenile Services. Statistics show that 52 percent of troubled girls suffer from a traumatic disorder, including PTSD, sexual, mental or physical abuse, or neglect. Girls who suffer from severe trauma often abuse drugs and alcohol, research has shown. They also suffer from depression and may have attempted suicide. Almost 90 percent of troubled girls who are committed to the Department of Children & Families or placed on parole suffer from psychological disorders, including schizophrenia, mood disorders, dementia or delusional disorders, according to the data, which dates from 2009.

Julia reading her work in class.

CT Women Among The Highest Paid Nationally

Some of the highest-paid women in the country work in Connecticut—but for every 76 cents they make, their male co-workers earn one dollar. According to U.S. Census reports, women in the Northeast earn more per week than women in other regions. The data shows that women in Connecticut and Rhode Island, for example, earn over $800 per week, where women in Arkansas earn just over $500. But in Connecticut—depending on where you work and what job you have—the wage gap can be larger than 24 percent. In April, reported that the city of Stamford has the worst pay equity in the United States—where women are making only 46 percent of men’s salaries who do the same job.