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Study Suggests Teenagers Do Better If Their City Officials Collaborate

A report released by a children's advocacy group shows that opportunities for young people vary widely between cities and towns across the state. 

The findings show that poor young people living in segregated cities struggle more often with being suspended, dropping out of school, or being arrested.  The rate of teen births among these kids is also higher.

But researchers from Connecticut Voices for Children also found some surprising connections.

"The more adults there are who have bachelor's degrees in a community, the fewer teen pregnancies we'll see -- even given constant levels of poverty," said Lauren Ruth, a youth policy fellow who co-authored the report. She said there's a few possible reasons why this might be happening.

"One is, more potential role models. One is possibly different norms within communities. One is maybe more interaction with adults on a regular basis."

Here's a portion from the study: 

Credit Connecticut Voices for Children
Some towns recorded zero births to teen mothers per 1,000 births: Union, Bridgewater, Warren, Washington, Canaan, New Canaan, Cornwall, and Middlebury. The 14 highest birth rates were in towns with the lowest income.

The one thing that separates cities, according to the study, is the level of collaboration. New Haven, for example, has seen a decline in drop-out rates and suspensions, which has been attributed to the city's mayor, police chief, and school officials coming together to fix the problem.

"They sat down, and they said, "This is a problem, and we're going to hammer out a coordinated way to deal with this problem, and a consistent philosophy across our departments.'" Ruth said. "That approach really seems to be a promising method of tackling problems in communities."

Credit Connecticut Voices for Children
The statewide average was 101 suspensions per 1,000 students. Waterbury, East Hartford, New London, New Britain, and Windham all had suspension rates approximately four or five times higher than the state average.

The study also found other correlations. Like high school dropouts are more likely to have a job if the homeownership rate is high in their town. Ruth said that it's hard to pin down why, but it could have something to do with access to resources that help with job placement. And families that rent tend to move more often, which can also make a job hunt difficult.

The General Assembly is considering a bill that would help coordinate various diversionary programs across the state. These programs seek to identify struggling students early, and offer supports to help get them back on the right track.

David finds and tells stories about education and learning for WNPR radio and its website. He also teaches journalism and media literacy to high school students, and he starts the year with the lesson: “Conflicts of interest: Real or perceived? Both matter.” He thinks he has a sense of humor, and he also finds writing in the third person awkward, but he does it anyway.

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