Courant: Almost Half Of Hartford Students Now Attend Integrated Schools
Almost Half Of Hartford Students Now Attend Integrated Schools
by Kathleen Megan
November 20, 2014
©The Hartford Courant
Almost 48 percent of Hartford students are in integrated schools this fall, a percentage that exceeds the target set for this fall by the Sheff v. O’Neill desegregation case.
Under a court agreement reached last December, the percentage of Hartford students in integrated schools was to reach 44 percent this fall. The actual percentage reached was 47.5 percent as of Oct 1.
It is the second year in a row that the percentage of children in integrated settings has exceeded the target set by the Sheff case. Last year’s target was 41 percent, and 42.4 percent of Hartford students were reported in integrated settings.
“We are pleased with the progress we’ve made to date and remain committed to providing high-quality educational opportunities for Hartford students,” said Kelly Donnelly, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education.
The progress has been made through the establishment of more interdistrict magnet schools, the expansion of existing interdistrict magnet schools, and the growth of the Open Choice program that enables city students to attend suburban schools.
Of the 21,458 minority Hartford students, 9,558 are in integrated schools this fall.
Martha Stone, a lawyer for the plaintiffs in the long-running Sheff case, said that it’s “absolutely” good news and a “step in the right direction” that the state has exceeded the Sheff goals, but she said “It’s hard to cheer when there are thousands of kids who are still in low-performing, segregated schools.”
“Is the glass half-empty or is the glass half-full?” Stone asked. “I’m glad that they exceeded the goal, but the bar now needs to be raised even further. Overall, we need to accelerate the pace in the future.”
She said it’s the position of the plaintiffs that “any child in Hartford who wants a quality integrated education should have access to that.”
Hartford Superintendent Beth Schiavino-Narvaez said, “We are appreciative of the opportunities that our students have benefited from as a result of the Sheff decision.”
She added that the district is also grateful that through Sheff, opportunities have now been extended to neighborhood schools “in the form of the Lighthouse School model that was introduced this year at Rawson Elementary School.”
The plaintiffs and the state are now negotiating a new agreement.
The desegration suit was filed in 1989. In 1996, the Supreme Court ruled that “the existence of extreme racial and ethnic isolation in the public school system deprives schoolchildren of a substantially equal educational opportunity.”