Hartford Superintendent Gets Mostly A's For Achievement
Although he has detractors, Steven Adamowski's five-year tenure as superintendent in Hartford was marked by his establishing new specialized schools, improved student test scores and a significant increase in the graduation rate
By MILLY ARCINIEGAS, ROBERT COTTO JR., By NICHOLAS FISCHER, OZ GRIEBEL, ANDREA D. JOHNSON, and ALEX JOHNSTON
July 10, 2011
Focused Priorities Lift Scores
By MILLY ARCINIEGAS
To illustrate Steven Adamowski's accomplishments during his leadership, I have to take you back to a moment in time when the system wasn't producing great results for our children.
The Hartford Public School system was a dysfunctional, low-performing school system.
There was no system accountability.
Parents had a lack of trust in the system.
Parent involvement was at its lowest.
When Adamowski came on board, he came in with a strong mission and vision. His mission was to overhaul the entire Hartford Public School System to produce greater student outcomes and his vision was to create a system of high-performing schools to begin closing the achievement gap.
His visionary leadership provided the school system with structure. He focused on priorities, such as early literacy, accountability and high expectations and implementing an all-choice system of schools. He also took the lead on becoming the first school district in the state to implement school governance councils to include parents in decision-making.
For the past three years, our children have shown significant gains and everyone is proud of their accomplishments. Because of Adamowski, our children and school system are now on a path to produce extraordinary results. His legacy continues.
Milly Arciniegas is president of the Hartford Parent Organization Council.
More Choice, Mixed Results
By ROBERT COTTO JR.
Steven Adamowski's five-year plan for changing the Hartford Public Schools had mixed results.
He promised to reduce the achievement gap by making educators solely responsible for test scores and offering more choices for parents. Using the Sheff v. O'Neill magnet schools as a model, academies sprouted with the collaboration of parents and educators. Adamowski deserves credit for harnessing their creativity in establishing several new public school options.
However, he leaves the city with challenges.
Test score improvements in math and reading were inconclusive. For every new student who passed the math and reading test, the district removed one student from standardized testing. For two years, his administration omitted 8 percent of students from regular testing. The greatest factor causing the apparent district improvement was the removal of low-scoring students from the testing sample.
The unregulated choice system strained the district's finances, dislocated students and frustrated parents. Adamowski's frequently combative dealings with Hartford's teachers were harmful to morale. These actions weakened our ability to attract and retain the quality educators we need.
The school board must now rebuild bridges with the people left behind by these missteps. True reform will mean supporting educators, listening to families and encouraging students to excel at more than state tests.
Robert Cotto Jr. is an elected (Working Families Party) member of Hartford's board of education. He teaches at the Metropolitan Learning Center.
By NICHOLAS FISCHER
Steve Adamowski is the real deal. I have known Steve since 1997 when I was associate commissioner for finance and accountability in Massachusetts. He was then associate secretary for education in Delaware with Pat Forgione. Not long after, I became superintendent of the Christina Schools in Delaware and was immediately impressed with his unswerving commitment to improving student achievement and accountability in public schools when it was hardly popular. Steve believes that all students can learn.
Whether in Delaware, Cincinnati, working with the American Institutes for Research or Hartford, Steve, although an able politician, has always been clear about important values such as high expectations for students, equity in school finance and making money follow students.
He walked into politically fractious situations in Cincinnati and Hartford where many questioned his commitment to reform and to serving all students. In both situations, with his hallmark quiet diligence, persistence and courage, a willingness to say what some do not want to hear, he reduced dropout rates, created innovative high school programs, increased student achievement and improved accountability for students and staff.
In an era when it often easier to minimize risk and steer clear of controversy, Steve Adamowski has had the character to make take risks and face controversy to create better schools for all students and parents.
Nicholas Fischer is superintendent of schools in New London.
Galvanizing Force For Reform
By OZ GRIEBEL
Steve Adamowski provided vigorous and invaluable leadership during his five-year tenure and vastly improved the direction of Hartford education. Steve, his team, the school board and city hall implemented meaningful reforms that challenge Hartford students to excel and provide them with the environment to do so. His passion to improve the lives of students was palpable and inspired many to join the effort.
Steve's willingness to redesign underperforming schools, coupled with his realistic and comprehensive use of data, including test scores and graduation rates, communicated a clear mission and a determination to achieve it. Students, parents and employers now have a factual basis for evaluating the system's accomplishments and challenges and, most important, its requirement for continued improvement.
The MetroHartford Alliance acknowledges Steve's drive to create an independent organization that helps bind parents, community leaders and employers together as a constructive and critical friend of the schools. Achieve! Hartford serves as a vital external driver of systemwide change, with a board committed to sustaining the substance and momentum of the reform.
Although Hartford has miles to go to ensure educational excellence, Steve's team will ensure that this extraordinary work remains the critical foundation to provide students with the skills and confidence to pursue their dreams. The alliance salutes Steven Adamowski for his exceptional tenure and looks forward to working with Christina Kishimoto.
Oz Griebel is president and CEO of MetroHartford Alliance.
Failed To Respect Teachers
By ANDREA D. JOHNSON
As a person who was born in Hartford, went to Hartford schools and chose to come back to teach in Hartford, I have seen many Hartford superintendents of schools.
Steven Adamowski has presented changes and challenges to the city during his tenure. He has also shown an unscrupulous and unprofessional side as to how he viewed and worked with the Hartford teachers union.
The superintendent has little to no regard, nor respect for the union and therefore teachers. Unfortunately he showed this many times during his tenure.
At one time when he was upset with the union, he sought, unsuccessfully, to force the union to pay a special tax. At another time he had the board of education stop paying three union officers who were on detached duty from their classroom assignments. Worst of all, he made some extremely disrespectful and unacceptable comments that greatly offended school employees in the presence of board and union officials who were meeting to discuss an issue at the state Board of Education.
It is most unfortunate that he was unable to show more respect for the teachers who educate the students and raised the test scores.
Andrea D. Johnson is president of the Hartford Federation of Teachers.
Legacy With National Reach
By ALEX JOHNSTON
Steven Adamowski leaves behind a legacy of profound impact not only on Hartford's students, but also on Connecticut and the national education dialogue.
It has been inspiring to watch Adamowski's diligent efforts to pursue what is right for students in the face of inertia and opposition. His successes are even more noteworthy in the context of a state that tends to tinker around the edges, rather than embrace fundamental reform. There is still much work to be done, but Hartford is now well ahead of the curve in terms of a coherent, districtwide reform plan.
The lessons learned in Hartford under Adamowski's tenure will continue to be relevant, especially as struggling districts such as Windham and Bridgeport increasingly look to the state for leadership. But Adamowski's influence also reaches beyond our state's borders: Cities around the nation look to his work for guidance on how to proceed with their efforts. He has certainly ruffled feathers along the way, but given how much ground Hartford's students have needed to gain, perhaps that's exactly what the district needed.
Adamowski has done a great service to Hartford's students, the city and the state. He leaves behind a strong foundation on which his successor can to build.
Alex Johnston is the CEO of ConnCAN, a statewide education reform advocacy organization.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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