For the first time in a long time, Hartford public schools opened for the academic year with a sense that the impossible - greatly improved student achievement - was within reach.
Although overall scores on the Connecticut Mastery Test don't yet reflect the change, a handful of schools that constantly scraped bottom on the CMT began the year with spectacular gains.
Nowhere was the reversal more dramatic than at the Dr. Ramon E. Betances Elementary School on Charter Oak Avenue, among the poorest in the city.
The latest test results show Betances scoring the largest gains of any school in the system, primarily in grades 3 and 4.
In the 2006 school year, 20.4 percent of third-graders scored at or above proficiency level in math, as required under the No Child Left Behind Act, and only 9.3 percent met or surpassed the higher state goal.
In 2007, 59.6 percent of third-graders were at or above proficiency and 33 percent met or exceeded the state goal.
Those are awesome increases. For Hartford, that's particularly awesome. Similarly stunning shifts were recorded in third- and fourth-grade reading and writing.
Credit a new management team, headed by Principal Josephine R. Smith, with a new no-excuses approach to learning and parent involvement.
Betances now determines where it expects students to be academically at the end of the year. School personnel then analyze all available data on each student to determine if the child's difficulties stem from poor behavior or lack of proper instruction.
Finally, the school initiates a plan to either reshape behavior or provide more instruction. Executing the plan requires the full involvement of parents. Discipline referrals have, as a result, dropped 80 percent. Everyone is too focused on accelerating achievement.
Superintendent Steven J. Adamowski assures that, in time, the entire system will be making comparable advances.
The results so far are encouraging.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at