Strong Progress After 5 Years Under Adamowski But Still Behind Statewide Average
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE
July 28, 2011
HARTFORD —— On his last day in the school system, former Superintendent Steven Adamowski said Thursday that the city's graduation rate rose to 60 percent this year — about double the rate of five years ago but well behind the statewide average.
Prominent in that figure are 255 city high school freshmen in 2007 who dropped out before reaching the 10th grade. That was 12.6 percent of the freshman class.
The graduation rate is based on a national formula endorsed by the Connecticut Department of Education and all 50 states that tracks the number of students who enter high school as ninth-graders and compares it to the graduating class four years later. The formula also considers students who transfer in and out of the city schools during that time.
Connecticut began using the National Governors Association formula last year when it calculated that the statewide average was 79 percent for the Class of 2009, with much lower graduation rates for Latinos and African American students — 58 percent and 66 percent, respectively. More recent state figures have not yet been released.
In Hartford, the graduation rate last year was 53 percent, school officials said.
When Adamowski began reform efforts in 2006, he broke away from the state's previous standards for calculating the rate and used a formula similar to today's to conclude that only 29 percent of the city's students were graduating from high school in four years.
"We are the lowest of the low," he told the Hartford Board of Education at the time.
For the 2005-06 school year, the city had reported to the state an annual graduation rate of 89 percent — based largely on that year's dropout data and the total number of students who graduated that year. But by 12th grade, many of the city's students had already dropped out or fallen far behind on credits.
Hartford's current four-year graduation rate shows that 1,053 students received their diplomas as part of the Class of 2011. That consists of 955 graduates in June and 98 more projected to graduate this summer. The school system did not provide the graduation rates of individual schools.
School officials said Thursday that the overall rate would be 67 percent if the city also counted students who simply needed more time to graduate. They cited two groups: the 39 June graduates of Opportunity High School, a new, rigorous alternative education program for those who previously dropped out; and the 78 students who graduated this year after five years in the city high schools. Those students include English Language Learners and some who have special needs.
"If we've done anything on a district level, it's introducing this notion that it doesn't matter how long it takes," said Adamowski, who served this month as a special adviser to his successor, Superintendent Christina Kishimoto. "Students with a little more time and more support can reach the same outcome."
A few years ago, Adamowski said, he began introducing smaller, themed academies within the high schools to implement the new "3 R's" in national education research: rigor, relationship and relevance. Researchers emphasized relationships in preventing students from dropping out, he said.
"You have to have a school that is small enough that the environment is personalized, that every student matters, that it's noticeable when they're not there. That they're important, that they're getting support," Adamowski said. "They have personal relationships with their teachers and principal."
At Hartford Public High School, the first of the three comprehensive high schools to be redesigned in the city, about a third of incoming students were reading at a fifth grade level when the school's freshman academy was implemented four years ago, Kishimoto said.
"Triage" is how Adamowski described the academy Thursday. "If you can get them through that first year and get them to the second year," he said, "their chances of graduating go up exponentially."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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