As with previous overhauls of the Hartford public schools, the success of Superintendent Steven J. Adamowski's ambitious plan to convert to a high-performance "all-choice" system will depend on how it is implemented.
That said, Mr. Adamowski's proposal has much more going for it than past restructurings and deserves an open-minded appraisal, if not the full support, of the Hartford community.
Under his plan, each school will offer courses in a specific career interest and courses designed to get students into college. By its very nature, the choice system compels parents to be more deeply involved in the education of their children. It also forces students to make earlier decisions about what they want to do with their lives and commit to those decisions.
Beyond providing rigor and relevance to real life after high school, each facility will be organized so that essentially the same nucleus of teachers manages a student's achievement from year to year.
The menu of schools reflects extensive discussions that Mr. Adamowski appears to have had with parents, teachers, state education officials, and business and political leaders, as well as programs that have stood the test of time.
Options range from all-boys or all-girls academies to schools focusing on nursing, teaching, financial services, the military, culinary arts and forensics. There will be, among other offerings, K-12 Montessori schools and two multilingual academies in Chinese and Spanish that will feed into a Global Economy and Language Institute at the high school level. There will even be a school that students will attend year-round.
Mr. Adamowski wisely told the board of education last week that his plan was a work in progress to be implemented in stages, and that some of his ideas might not pan out. "Schools will exist only as long as there are people who want them," he said.
It is easy to see how schools of choice stand a better chance of closing the massive achievement gap between Hartford students and the more advantaged students in the suburbs. They offer students a clear connection between present-day studies and future livelihood and they show an unflinching faith in the ability of Hartford children to make their way from one to the other.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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