Sunday, August 02, 2015

Hartford school board chairman: Pushing out struggling students 'stops now'

Hartford School Board Chairman: Pushing Out Struggling Students 'Stops Now'

July 29, 2015

HARTFORD — School board Chairman Richard Wareing apologized to city families this week and declared that what happened at Sport and Medical Sciences Academy "is never going to happen again in this district."
Wareing was referring to last month's letter from Sport and Medical Sciences, a magnet school near Colt Park, advising the family of a low-performing seventh-grader that transferring her elsewhere would be in the student's "best interest."

The letter seemed to confirm an old suspicion among education advocates: That area magnet schools push out students who struggle academically, essentially dumping them on impoverished neighborhood schools that are often criticized as failing institutions.

"I'm going to be very blunt: This [expletive] stops now," Wareing said at Tuesday's board meeting.
"School choice means choice for kids, not for the people that work for our kids," said Wareing, reading from prepared remarks. "We are a public school system, which means we welcome and we serve every child who walks through our door. If anyone here is not 100 percent committed to that vision, then they need to reconcile themselves to it now, or they need to leave."

...Wareing's heated speech followed a recent letter from Superintendent Beth Schiavino-Narvaez warning all school principals in the district that student transfers will be closely monitored.

"I am writing to you because I want to be explicit about my expectations: all students have a right to be educated in the school in which they enroll," Narvaez wrote in the letter sent July 20. "A student who is failing to meet academic performance standards should not be encouraged to transfer to another school. It is each school's responsibility to find the path to success for each and every student."

After Matt Conway III, executive director of the mentoring group RiseUP, posted a redacted copy of Sport and Medical Sciences' June 25 letter online — "Transfer paperwork has been enclosed for your convenience," the letter stated — administrators at the school apologized to the student's family "for any misunderstandings" and offered her intensive academic support.

But that hasn't quelled concern from advocates and some educators who assert that Greater Hartford magnet schools have long counseled underperforming students to leave.
Sandra Inga, president of the Hartford union that represents school administrators, said she heard from several city principals who wished that Narvaez had singled out magnet schools in her letter last week...
"Because it's not all the neighborhood schools — Bulkeley's not doing that, Weaver's not doing that, Hartford High is not doing that," Inga said after the board meeting. "It's the magnet schools ... . They've been doing that for years."...

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