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Hartford Schools Getting National Praise After Reforming System


July 27, 2009

In recent history whenever the Hartford school district made news, it usually wasn't good. From high dropout rates to low standardized test scores that were celebrated by past administrations for not being the worst in the state, the capital city's schools and students have been much maligned.

But with Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski's effort to radically reform the school system now entering its third year, ridicule is slowly turning to respect on a national level.

In June, the district was featured on the PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer. Much of the piece focused on Hartford Public High School, which has been redesigned into four smaller, specialized academies.

Also in June, in a speech calling for a turnaround of the nation's 5,000 most chronically under-performing schools, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that few of those schools have risen to the challenge with the exception of Hartford, Pittsburgh, Denver, New York, Oakland and Washington, D.C.

And this past week Capital Preparatory Magnet School Principal Steve Perry was featured on CNN's Black in America 2 with Soledad O'Brien.

"You get recognition when you get success," Adamowski said, referring in part to last year's substantial gains for district students on the Connecticut Mastery Test after a seven-year decline. Similar increases are expected to be announced today.

Adamowski, who as superintendent in Cincinnati turned around that district's poor performing schools, credited the urgency, accountability, high quality curriculum and use of data associated with reform for past and current successes.

And with continued support from the corporate community, dedicated teachers and administrators and the state department of education, Adamowski said he expects Hartford, the poorest city in Connecticut, to reach the state average on standardized testing within 10 years.

"The premise is that you can have high performing, high poverty schools," he said.

The district has also achieved a positive recognition on a local level from ConnCan, a New Haven-based school reform advocacy group which has been tracking Hartford's efforts.

"Hartford has gathered all the elements of what works from around the country," said CEO Alex Johnston. "It's a very impressive model of reform."

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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