Six years ago, Hartford schools began implementation of a reform strategy to improve low performing schools, increase graduation rates, improve state test scores, and most importantly create students who are ready for college and career.
Under the leadership of then Superintendent Dr. Steven J. Adamowski and and then Assistant Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto, Hartford introduced new school models transforming traditionally large public schools into smaller academies, each with its own theme. These have included the Early Reading Laboratory at Betances, the Journalism and Media Academy at Weaver, and the McDonough Expeditionary Learning School. In addition, Hartford grew the number of magnet, charter and neighborhood school options to create what is now referred to as a portfolio school district.
With the creation of an entire portfolio of schools, students were no longer limited to attending the school within their neighborhood, and given instead the Choice application and lottery system. For five years now, Hartford families have been given the opportunity to apply to the school that best aligns with their students’ interest.
These efforts and others have resulted in five consecutive years of improved CMT and CAPT scores, the narrowing of the achievement gap by 1.8% per year and a graduation rate more than double that in 2007. Of course, there is significant work to be done before Hartford is a district on par with the higher performing suburban districts in the state.
A neighborhood school (also known as a “district school”) primarily enrolls students who are Hartford residents - for example, Martin Luther King, the Journalism and Media Academy at Weaver, and the Expeditionary Learning Academy at Moylan.
Magnet schools promote racial integration and enroll half Hartford residents and half students from suburban districts with a mission to alleviate economic and racial isolation. Magnet schools can be managed by either the Hartford School District (such as Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy) or the Capital Region Education Council (such as the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts Elementary School).
Charter Schools are public schools managed by non-profit organizations; the two in Hartford include Achievement First and Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE). While the State authorizes the charters that allow charter schools to operate, the schools are open to all types of students and are free of charge. Operating in Hartford, Achievement First maintains an elementary, middle and high school, while Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE) maintains one Jumoke Academy elementary school and two Jumoke Academy middle schools, and is partnering with HPS to manage the Jumoke Academy Honors at Milner elementary and middle school.
Vocational Schools are public high schools, managed by the state and established to provide students with a “unique and rigorous high school learning environment that:
• ensures student academic success and trade/technology mastery, and instills a zest for lifelong learning; and
• prepares students for post-secondary education, including apprenticeships and immediate productive employment.
These schools respond to employers' and industries' current and emerging workforce needs and also their expectations, through business--school partnerships.” (CT Technical High School website home page)
So what are Community Schools then?
In Hartford, “Community Schools” are those seven schools that follow a certain model of deep partnership with one community-based-organization to offer and oversee a range of supports for students, families, and the entire school community. Community schools are open beyond regular school hours – from early morning into the evening and on weekends – and provide services that can include among other things:
•After school programs for academic and cultural enrichment;
• Services for adults, such as GED and ESL classes, job readiness, and financial literacy training; and
• Physical and mental health services, such as dental services, counseling, etc.
As new, redesigned and improved schools continue to roll out in Hartford each year, access to a high-quality education will continue to increase with the thought being that one day, within Hartford’s Portfolio District of Excellence, every single student will receive a great education on par with any that can be received throughout the state. The future success of our students, families, community and region depend upon it.