While everyone was gathered in a small room in the Public Library in Hartford, teachers and other figures excitedly filled into the room. As the meeting started we all heard from Dr. Beth Schiavino-Narvaez, the Superintendent, gave a brief overview of this program. She described how right now there are 6 schools in the Acceleration Agenda (for summary of the agenda click here. The schools involved are: Thirman Milner Elementary School, Burns Latino Studies Academy, Alfred E. Burr Elementary, Fred D. Wish Elementary School, Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School, and John C. Clark Elementary School. The main purpose of the Acceleration Agenda is to focus on the urgency to improve the neighborhood schools. After the Hartford Public Schools’ Transition Report (2014) was published, it was reported that there is an “urgency to improve the neighborhood schools, a need to increase systemic focus on teaching and learning, a lack of systematic approach to student interventions, need to create meaningful engagement and partnerships, and need to build the capacity of leaders, teachers, and staff who serve our students,” as reported in the previous link with the summary of the agenda. There is a need for stability and the teacher’s instructional approach is lacking in effectiveness. The Acceleration Agenda focuses on the individual strengths and needs of the students in Hartford. The program created an action plan that addresses educational equity and achievement by creating more support for schools and make practice more consistent.
A very important part of this meeting, which served as a community update, was the debut of a mini-documentary that focused on the progress of the Acceleration Agenda’s implementation. The film, “The Acceleration Agenda: An Equation for Equity” had Spanish subtitles and English subtitles, depending on what language was being spoken. The video began with “This is about a tale of two Hartfords.” A line that sticks out and resonates with the audience. Dr. Beth Schiavino-Narveaz then describes how there are schools in Hartford that are doing really well and then schools are doing poorly and desperately need acceleration. With the implementation of the Acceleration Agenda, people are now looking at what is working and what is not. There were three highlighted topics in this video. The first one the need for strong leadership. With this, teachers and officials must be able to step back and reflect on their goals and what they are aiming for. The second was a powerful focus on instruction. Teachers should be learning with each other and learn how to tailor their needs to their students. Also teachers should look at previous assessments and research and focus on what is working and what is not working. Finally, the video focused on Student Centered Support. With the Acceleration Agenda they put in a family service center. There is also a heavy focus on personalized support for students and the students should be at the center of their learning. Throughout the video we heard from other administrators and teachers about their positive experiences with the Acceleration Agenda.
So far, the schools involved have seen results. 5 out of the 6 schools have reported reductions in chronic absences. All of the 6 schools have see better success in mathematics. So far this Agenda has seen major success in the schools and this mini-documentary was very important in showing the progress.