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Test Scores, Graduation Rate Please Hartford Officials

By JEFFREY B. COHEN | Courant Staff Writer

July 16, 2008

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City and school officials released test results and graduation rates Tuesday that they say prove that one of the state's worst performing districts is improving.

Boasting about what he said was the first significant increase in elementary and high school test results since 2001, Hartford's Superintendent of Schools Steven J. Adamowski also cautioned that "we have miles to go before the achievement gap is closed."

Mayor Eddie A. Perez, who is also the chairman of the city's board of education, called the results a "small step in the right direction."

"We have a long way to go, and I think that's the other reality," Perez said. "We know that this is not going to be a short path to success."

The schools released three sets of data Tuesday.

The first were results of the Connecticut Academic Performance Test, which is taken by the state's 10th-graders.

Hartford's 10th-graders are still among the state's lowest performers in math, writing, reading and science. For example, only 11 percent reached the state goal in reading the lowest reading performance for Connecticut.

But Hartford school officials say that the small gains their students did make are encouraging.

When it came to meeting state goals by subject matter, a greater percentage of Hartford's 10th-graders met that goal in math, science and writing this year than did the year before.

A lesser percentage of Hartford students met the goal for reading.

Hartford also posted gains in the percentage of students achieving proficiency or better in each of the test's four subject areas. The "proficiency" designation is a level below state goals.

The city later released its Connecticut Mastery Test results, which are results of a test taken by the state's third- through eighth-graders.

Using "proficiency," and not the more challenging state goal, as the measure, officials say those scores showed increases in math, reading, and writing for grades 3, 4, and 6. Grades 5 and 7 saw increases in two of those categories, while Grade 8 showed an increase in just one.

Statewide, mastery test scores are expected to be released later this week.

Adamowski also pointed to various district measures for which the board of education has set specific achievement targets as it tries to close the gap between the scores of students in Hartford and those of their suburban neighbors.

For those measures, the district showed improvement and met its goals in fourth-grade math, seventh-grade math, and tenth-grade writing. It showed improvement but didn't meet its goal in third-grade reading. It made no change in fifth-grade writing, which Adamowski called "our one disappointment."

Finally, Adamowski presented new graduation rate figures. Figures he released nearly two years ago showed that Hartford graduated 29 percent of the students in the 2005-06 school year who were enrolled in city high schools in ninth grade. Tuesday, Adamowski said the district's target for this year was 33 percent; the reality was 36 percent.

He attributes half of that increase to the first graduating class at the district's new University High School. The other half can be attributed to the fact that the district closed an adult education program that he said was an "easy version of high school."

Still, he said, the numbers look good. These results are "a short-term win that helps you go on to a higher level," Adamowski said. "It's very important from a morale standpoint, but it also demonstrates that you [can] have a high poverty, high performing school. That it's possible."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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