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State And City Educators Discuss Diversity In Education

Adamowski: Parents want good schools, not integrated schools

By Jeff Cohen

December 08, 2010

The lawsuit Sheff versus O’Neill was to provide a more diverse educational setting for Hartford’s public school students. But despite having spent half a billion dollars building magnets schools, the state has struggled to improve the situation.

As WNPR’s Jeff Cohen reports, state and city educators are now trying to figure out how to comply with Sheff without harming the work the city has done to better its schools.

State education Commissioner Mark McQuillan came to the city’s board of education Monday with a message: everyone has to do more to educate Hartford students in diverse settings.

“We weren’t successful in the first part of this decade and now, we have to try to move it to the point that we are.”

The state says about a quarter of Hartford Public School students are in what it calls “desegregated settings.” But according to the agreement between the state and the plaintiffs in the Sheff case, that's not high enough.

McQuillan came to the board as a plea for cooperation and as an early warning of the hard work ahead. A worst-case scenario could mean downsizing Hartford's student population by more than 10 percent.

But school Superintendent Steven Adamowski told McQuillan that parents today don’t want diverse schools – they want good schools, in their community.

“In this 15 year period we’ve demonstrated all over the nation that you can have high-poverty, high-performing schools, that you can have high-performing, all-minority schools.”

Board Chairwoman Ada Miranda says she fears that satisfying Sheff could mean layoffs. She and Adamowski also suggested that diversity isn't just Hartford's problem, and that suburban districts aren't doing enough to enroll city students.

“There’s a tremendous value to Sheff. But things have changed. Why does Hartford have to lose kids and lose enrollment and diminish as a district when this could be reciprocal?”

“It’s a force that is really working against what we’re trying to accomplish.”

McQuillan told the board that he wished he had more authority to compel suburban districts to chip in, but he doesn’t. He also described plans to create incentives for suburban districts to accept more Hartford students.

Still, he said, the demands of Sheff remain.

Reprinted with permission of Jeff Cohen, author of the blog Capital Region Report. To view other stories on this topic, search Capital Region Report at http://capitalregionreport.wordpress.com/.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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