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Hartford Schools Grab National Spotlight

HARTFORD — The Hartford Board of Education’s efforts to reform its school system have caught national attention again. 

The board’s participation in Reform Governance in Action training was featured  in a report by the Wallace foundation and published as a supplement in Education Week earlier this month.  

On Thursday, Nov. 12, the district’s method of redesigning low-performing schools into high-achieving academies and learning centers with a focus on a career theme will be the subject of a major presentation at the annual Education Trust National Conference in Arlington, Va. Superintendent Steven J. Adamowski will lead the session, according to a press release yesterday.

Earlier this year, Hartford Public Schools were the focus of a special report on school reform that appeared on the PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer. Shortly thereafter, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan cited Hartford in a speech as one of six districts in the country that were doing the most to turn around low-performing schools. 

Reform Governance in Action is a two-year program run by the Houston-based Center for Reform of School Systems, in which a group of hand-picked school boards and superintendents develop the policy tools to run their districts effectively and close the achievement gap. 

Participation in the program is by invitation only and most of the costs are absorbed by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. 

During their training, school boards and their superintendents meet every other month to develop a “theory of action” that determines the strategy that works best for them to improve learning. They then draft and approve policy changes that set the strategy in motion. 

The Education Week article noted that under Hartford’s theory of action, the district’s relationship with each school depends on the school’s performance. As the school meets targets, such as increasing its scores on standardized tests, their principals gain more autonomy over budget, personnel and curriculum. 

Ada Miranda, chair of the board of education, noted that the training has transformed the way the board does business. 

“We don’t want what has happened to be dropped,” she said. “So we are focused on sustainability.”

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