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Hartford's Burns Academy Focuses On Global Economic Future

Hartford’s New Schools: Burns Academy of Latino Studies

By JODIE MOZDZER | The Hartford Courant

November 03, 2003

•This year, several Hartford schools have seen major changes under Superintendent Steven J. Adamowski's district reform plan: Some underperforming schools were shut down; new schools were created; and other schools have been restructured. This series looks at individual schools that have undergone major changes this academic year.

Amarilis Ruperto knows why her teachers want her to take Spanish, in addition to English, this year at Burns Academy of Latino Studies.

"Because when we're older, we'll be able to get a job better," said Ruperto, a fifth-grader at the redesigned school.

As part of a districtwide reformation of the schools, Burns reopened this year as an elementary school with a Latin American theme. Starting in kindergarten, all students take daily Spanish and Latino studies classes. The focus is to prepare students for a global society, where fluency in more than one language is becoming a must.

District administrators hope to eventually open a sister school with a focus on Asian studies, and a World Affairs High School for the two schools to feed into, saying schools with global themes are important in a global economy.

Teachers at Burns — all but 10 of whom are new to the school — are trying to integrate a world perspective into all classes. For example, a math lesson could include problems involving international trade figures between the U.S. and Peru. Likewise, students in art classes may be asked to paint Latin American-themed works.

But a ready-made Latin American curriculum for all subjects is hard to find, Principal Lourdes Soto said. So teachers and staff are developing their own. Teachers have attended professional development workshops with the Connecticut World Affairs Council and the Connecticut Geographic Alliance to develop their course work. And students will use international programs such as iEarn, an online organization where students from 115 countries work together on projects.

"It really gets kids used to communicating outside their borders, outside their community," said John Meyers, the project director for the World Affairs Council, which is partnering with the school to bring international-themed programs to the students.

Two months into the school year, many of the programs are still being developed.

But the most pressing task for the staff at Burns is to raise test scores. Before the redesign, Burns was one of the worst-performing schools in one of the lowest-performing districts in the state. Less than half of all students reached proficiency levels on Connecticut Mastery Tests last year, and even fewer made state goals. For example, only 4.5 percent of fourth-graders last year reached the goal on the reading tests, compared with about 56 percent of students across the state.

"We're [trying to raise test scores] through our theme. We're trying to make learning not just a requirement, but something fun through the theme," Soto said.

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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