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Hartford School System Has Miles To Go, Superintendent Says

By JODIE MOZDZER | The Hartford Courant

November 07, 2008

The Hartford school district has shown early momentum in its large-scale reinvention. But closing the glaring achievement gap between city students and the state average will take another decade of the kinds of improvements the district saw on recent standardized tests.

That was the message of Superintendent Steven J. Adamowski's first state of the schools address on Thursday. Adamowski outlined the district's gains on the Connecticut Mastery and CAPT tests last year and urged the community to remain invested in the school system's success.

"There are many people who feel we have turned a corner after years of decline, but we have miles to go," Adamowski said to a crowd of school officials, principals and community leaders who gathered at the Learning Corridor Theater on Washington Street.

Adamowski arrived in late 2006 with a reform plan to close city schools that were not performing and open themed schools in their place. His vision includes an "all-choice" system that allows parents to pick from any neighborhood school in the city. Better-performing schools are to be awarded more freedom of control under Adamowski's plans.

Although many of the reforms started during this school year, Hartford students' achievement had improved on the Mastery and CAPT tests in every grade level for almost every subject in 2007-08, according to test scores provided by the state Department of Education. The exceptions were fifth- and seventh-grade writing, where achievement declined. Overall, the district was the fastest-improving in the state.

But even though Hartford students are improving faster than state averages, they have a long way to go to catch up. For example, only 33.5 percent of the city's third-graders reached proficient levels in reading last year; 68.4 percent across the state did.

Adamowski described the state of the schools as hopeful, yet fragile. He outlined high rates of poverty Hartford is the second-poorest city in the country and low literacy levels as among the main challenges to continuing reform at the same pace.

"We tend to romanticize the students in Hartford who beat the odds," Adamowski said. "We need to have schools where students no longer beat the odds; they are the odds because they went to good schools."

Ten new schools, including four academies at Hartford Public High School, opened last year under the reform plans. The district Thursday announced the themes of at least five more schools that are scheduled to open next year.

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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