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Hartford Shows Improvement In High School Graduation Rate

STEVEN GOODE

September 23, 2009

HARTFORD - The high school graduation rate for Hartford public school students still isn't great, but it continues to get better.

In 2009, just over 42 percent of the city's students graduated from high school, compared with 36 percent in 2008 and 29 percent in 2007.

The low of 29 percent "really rocked our city," Superintendent Steven Adamowski said Tuesday. "We knew it was bad but not how bad."

Since then the district's reform efforts which include smaller schools, ninth-grade academies, themed high schools that focus on career paths, expectations that students will go on to college and closer relationships between students and staff have helped to increase the graduation rate.

Adamowski said that student-teacher relationships and small schools are keys to success and that he hopes they lead to a graduation rate topping 50 percent by the time he retires in two years.

"You're not a number, you're noticed" in a smaller school, he said. "You're missed when you're not there. When you get off track there's a hand, either on your shoulder or the back of your neck, to help get you back on."

Adamowski said he also expects to see Hartford's graduation rate compare more favorably to other urban school districts in the state and around the country when they are required, under No Child Left Behind rules, to adopt Hartford's calculation methods. In Hartford, school officials compare the number of students in a ninth-grade class to the number of students in that class who complete 12th grade. Other districts calculate their graduation rate by comparing the number of students who begin the 12th grade to the number of them who graduate at the end of the year.

"The graduation rate in Connecticut has been something that historically has not been transparent," Adamowski said. "It's Connecticut's dirty little secret."

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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