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Courant: Five Magnet Schools Don’t Comply With Sheff Requirements

Monday December 13, 2010

Hartford: Five Magnet Schools Don’t Comply With Sheff Requirements
by Grace Merritt

December 13, 2010
©The Hartford Courant

HARTFORD

Five magnet schools don’t have enough white students to meet a court desegregation order, prompting a warning from state Education Commissioner Mark McQuillan.

McQuillan sent letters Monday to the schools asking officials there to meet to discuss how they plan to correct the imbalances. The letter also warns that they could lose thousands of dollars in state subsidies for magnet schools.

“What we want is to see is an aggressive marketing plan and outreach to make sure these schools meet the standard of diverse educational setting so students have that experience,” said Tom Murphy, spokesman for the state Department of Education.

Under the Sheff v. O’Neill desegregation settlement, white students must make up 25 percent of the enrollment of Hartford magnet schools. The five schools that were rebuked had white enrollment ranging from 11.9 percent at the Capital Preparatory Magnet School to 24.3 percent at the Sports and Medical Sciences Academy.

The state is obliged to meet the percentage requirements to comply with the court-ordered agreement designed to better integrate Hartford schools.

However, the leader of one of the schools attributed the imbalance to a “significant data management problem” with the state Department of Education’s regional school-choice office.

Bruce Douglas, executive director of the Capital Regional Education Council, said the contractor that tracked the data and ran the admission lotteries for the state did not release the data early enough for magnet schools to plan accordingly.

State officials disputed that allegation.

“We disagree wholeheartedly that this was the result of the lottery. This has to do with marketing and outreach, so we want to see more of that,” Murphy said.

The state’s warning letter came days after the state released statistics showing that the state slightly improved desegregation, but still fell short of its goal of having 35 percent of Hartford’s minority students educated in a diverse educational setting.

If the five schools had complied, the state would have reached its integration goal easily, Murphy said.

In addition to Capital Prep and the Sports and Medical Sciences Academy, the other schools out of balance are the Pathways to Technology Magnet School, at 19.4 percent white; Mary Hooker Environmental Sciences, at 15 percent white; and the Medical Professions and Teacher Preparation Academy, at 16.2 percent white.

All are run by Hartford public schools, except the Medical Professions and Teacher Preparation Academy. That school, located in Windsor, is run by CREC.

Generally, most of the magnet school seats are assigned by the state Department of Education’s regional school choice office through a lottery held in the spring. After that, some families may opt not to enroll, which opens up additional seats. At that point, the state holds a second lottery. The problem is that the second lottery wasn’t held until September or October, very late in the school year, Douglas said.

Hartford receives $13,054 for every out-of-district student it enrolls in its magnet schools, while CREC receives $10,440 for every student no matter where they live, Murphy said.

Link: http://www.courant.com/community/hartford/hc-hartford-magnet-1214-20101213,0,515039.story