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Courant Op-ed: Students Waiting For Magnets Losing Out

Thursday December 6, 2012

Courant Op-ed: Students Waiting For Magnets Losing Out
by Tracy Jenkins
December 6, 2013
©The Hartford Courant

As a parent, I believe that a great education can level the playing field and create opportunity for all kids, regardless of their family background.

In Hartford, unfortunately, many kids aren’t receiving a great education. The board of education recently wasted an opportunity to address this crucial issue, voting against expansion of high-quality charter and magnet schools in the city.

This was a huge mistake — which the board later appeared to recognize by approving two proposed magnet schools.

I call on Mayor Pedro Segarra, Superintendent Christina Kishimoto and other city officials to fix this problem and help give all of Hartford’s students the education they deserve.

The lack of quality schools in the city hurts my family directly. My child is currently No. 108 on the waiting list at Capital Preparatory Magnet School, one of the best schools in Hartford. This means that more than 100 hundred children are in line before my daughter, standing in front of her opportunity for a quality education.

And the irony is I am grateful that she isn’t further down on the list. That shouldn’t be.

My story is different from many families’. After a grueling search, I was blessed to be offered a job here in Hartford. I am excited to move to the city this month to take advantage of the opportunity.

But what should have been a cause for celebration has turned into a cause for concern and distress. Because I cannot afford private school tuition, my daughter will be attending a traditional public school in Hartford.

And with that comes the gut-wrenching reality that she is going to inherit a seat at one the many schools where an overwhelming majority of elementary school students are below grade level in reading, writing and math. I’ve done my research and I’ve seen the stats. Districtwide, only 30 percent of third-graders are at or above the state’s goals in reading and math. That’s far behind the state, which is at 62 percent.

When I started looking at specific neighborhoods to which I could move and the schools there, some of the numbers looked even worse. At the Burns School in the Frog Hollow neighborhood, for example, only 9 percent of tested third-graders were at or above goal on math.

As a mother who is committed to ensuring that my child receives a quality education, how can I in good conscience condemn my daughter to such a failing school?

But I have no choice. I tried to enroll my daughter at Capital Prep, which is high-performing and would give my daughter the education she deserves. But I was told that they were full — that there was nothing I could do but wait my turn.

And that is wrong. Parents should never have to cross their fingers and wait as their kids attend a failing school.

But if the board of education allows even more high-performing schools to expand, everything could be different. More students would be taken off the waiting list for a great school, giving hope to me and all other parents who fear for our children’s future and access to education.

My daughter, as well as many other students in the city, could have a much better shot at success in life.

I truly believe that every child — regardless of race, ZIP code or socioeconomic status — should have access to a great school. The board is denying thousands of kids that basic right.

It’s time for our local leaders to take action. Hartford kids can’t wait.

Tracy Jenkins is a public school parent.

Link: http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/hc-op-jenkins-waiting-for-hartford-magnet-schools–20131206,0,5498877.story