Friday, January 01, 2010

Moving in the right direction

Twenty years ago, Hartford was outed as one of our nation's most underperforming and racially segregated school systems. The landmark case, Sheff vs. O'Neill, sought to remedy the failures of the district by providing students with choice. In the end, students from Hartford could choose, to some extent, from Hartford schools and surrounding districts. Those districts could reciprocate by sending their students to Hartford schools. The progress has been slow, but the recent inclusion of four Hartford schools on the US News and World Report list of high achieving schools.
Hartford's recent successes, though minor in number, have evolved from innovative programming and inspirational leadership. What the state of Connecticut needs, considering its ownership of the largest achievement gap in the country, is an influx of magnet schools. We also need leadership from our State Legislature to open Connecticut's education system to the type of creativity and dedication brought by these quasi-charter schools. Well, actually, Connecticut needs more charter schools, especially in those areas of the state with the largest achievement gaps: Connecticut Map by performance (where you see blue, yellow, and light blue pocketed together, that is where we need new thinking.)
But in the end, Connecticut needs to move beyond its notorious New England WASPishness and its own focus on personal wealth (look at how we fund education--by individual towns). For such a liberal little state, we sure are rather set in our conservative ways of doing education.

4 Comments:

At 2:43 PM , Blogger Braemar said...

what do you suppose is causing the achievement difference?

it is not money spent per pupil as you can see many towns doing very well with lower costs.

seems districts and staff are usually seen as a cause, while families and neighborhoods are left from the
equation.

 
At 9:42 AM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

Braemer, my readings indicate that with the right people in the right places, schools can overcome the challenges posed by family or neighborhood distractions. Charter schools across the country are finding ways to succeed with minimal parental involvement (other than siging their student up for the lottery). If we want our low-performing students in our most challenging environments to succeed, it is worth researching the methods of those succeeding schools and finding ways to make their practices a part of what Connecticut does.
Obviously, as a charter school proponent, I find a great deal of value in their parental nature and smaller size. These schools are doing more with less money because they have the right people leading, the right people teaching, and the right curriculum in place.

 
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