On Tuesday, March 26, Hartford Public Schools Superintendent Beth Schiavino Narvaez hosted an event entitled, “A community Update: Cultivating Equity and Excellence,” at the Albany Branch Hartford Public Library. In discussing the current state of public education in Hartford, Superintendent Beth Schiavino-Narvaez described it as a “Tale of two Hartfords.” She described it as such because there is a presence of both high performing schools, who are nationally regarded for their high levels of achievement, in addition to schools with high need for support and improvement. The focus of the event was their acceleration agenda, which came as a result of the Hartford Public School’s Transition report in 2014. Some of the main themes raised by this report were “a demonstrated urgency to improve neighborhood schools, the need to increase systemic focus on teaching and learning, lack of systematic approach to student interventions, a need to create meaningful engagement partnerships, and a need to build the capacity of leaders, teachers, and staff who serve our students.” This launched the initiative for the acceleration program, which particularly focused on the progress and improvement of six Hartford public schools (Thirman Milner Elementary School, Fred D. Wish Elementary School, Burns Latino Studies Academy, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, Alfred E. Burr Academy, and John C. Clark Elementary School.)
Hartford Superintendent Beth Schiavino-Narvaez’ top priority for this year has been to help the Acceleration Agenda succeed and thrive within these public schools. As this agenda was put into place, the superintendent and her cabinet went to many lengths to ensure their plan would create a school environment that would help Hartford students succeed. By talking with each school and their surrounding communities, Narvaez and her team were able to come up with a three step plan to ensure success within the schools. Their focus was on improving leadership, creating powerful relationships between home and school, and focusing on instruction strategies. Within the meeting today Narvaez was able to share how the Acceleration Agenda had impacted these six schools throughout the year. Within these schools there was a clear reduction in absences and dropouts as wells as an increase in math scores throughout all six schools. While these are all significant improvements, Narvaez also wanted to put an emphasis on how the teachers within the schools have taken action to improve their leadership and instruction skills within the classroom. The teacher’s’ goals were to create a classroom environment in which each student felt equally supported. This improvement created a classroom where each student has a very specialized and specific teaching plan. These plans are based off of each students strengths and weaknesses surrounding academics, social interactions, health, and home life.
The proposed solutions offered by the Superintendent and her fellow administrators for the inefficiencies faced by Hartford’s Public School system seemed promising. The focus on student-centered learning and improved, individualized instruction for students with achievement-based needs may well be met within the near future, and we suspect that the HPS system is in good hands. The “Acceleration Agenda” may have initially sounded like a numbers-obsessed scheme to save the hides of administrators, but the student focused approach really exhibited a collective desire to help Hartford’s children see improvements in learning styles and teaching techniques.