Despite significant public opposition to another Achievement First, Inc. school in Hartford, Mayor Pedro Segarra, Board of Education Chairman Matt Poland and a majority of the Hartford Board of Education voted to give Achievement First, Inc. a second Hartford school — but they did so without identifying where the new Achievement First, Inc. school would be.
The new Achievement First schools was part of a broader strategy on the part of the Hartford political leadership and the corporate education reformers to close existing neighborhood schools in Hartford and give the properties to charter school companies. (A similar strategy has been used in Chicago and Philadelphia to destroy their public school systems).
Last week Hartford Superintendent of Schools, Christina Kishimoto announced that she was targeting the Clark School for closure and proposing that the space be given over to Achievement First, Inc.
Of course, Achievement First, Inc. is the larger charter school management company that was co-founded by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.
Now the Real Hartford Blog highlights the fact that this move appears to be a true “bait and switch” maneuver since the implication all along was that the new Achievement First, Inc. school would be in Hartford’s South-end and not the North-end where Clark school is located.
Hartford’s North-end is already dominated by charter schools, with Achievement First, Jumoke Academy, the new Jumoke Academy at Milner and the charter like Capital Prep.
Although corporate education reformers love to talk about providing students with “school choice,” this latest effort to put another Achievement First, Inc. school in the North-end would mean that the children of Clark any remaining public school children would be provided “choice,” as long as their “choice” was a charter school.
You can read more of the details here in the Real Hartford Blog which is published at: http://www.realhartford.org/
By Kerri Provost, October 27, 2013
Superintendent Christina Kishimoto — whose employment in this capacity with the Hartford Public Schools is over at the end of this school year and who has had her request to no longer be evaluated by the Board of Education granted — has angered a number of parents at the Clark School in the city’s North East neighborhood with the proposal that this preK-8 school be phased out and replaced by an Achievement First charter school.
Just a few blocks away on Vine Street, the Milner School, which had been shut down, redesigned, and re-opened previously, was given over to a different charter school management company in 2012. That time around, the same urgency was placed on the decision, though in that case, Kishimoto had missed the deadline for proposing school redesign. She missed it by five months. In the end, the Board of Education did not enforce the rules of the process, which besides contributing to the rocky start of Jumoke Academy at Milner, essentially disenfranchised parents. The school choice system in Hartford gives parents the sense of being able to choose where their children go to school, but when they select a school, only to have that school transformed after the fact, that choices is thrown away. This along with the continued practice of having more appointed than elected members on the Board of Education makes one wonder if the average Hartford resident is trusted to make decisions that impact their lives and children’s lives.
On Wednesday morning, Kishimoto met with the current principal of the Clark School, along with its School Governance Council to tell them she planned to begin the redesign process on this school.
On Thursday, members of the Board of Education were informed of this proposal via email.
Then, on Friday, there was a meeting for the Clark SGC and community, which was attended by David Medina, the Director of External Communications for the Hartford Public Schools. By those in attendance, children were reported to be teary-eyed over the news. Parents were not having it. Not even one bit.
If this proposal goes anywhere, the changes at Clark would begin in the 2014-2015 school year, with the fifth grade being operated by Achievement First, while other grade levels at Clark remain under Clark. In the 2015-2016 school year, Achievement First would additionally operate kindergarten, first, and sixth grade; in 2016-2017 the charter school would take over Clark’s second and seventh grade and the public school would close. She does not indicate what happens to the school’s third or eighth graders, but CRT would continue its work with the preschool segment at Clark School.
Though this time line for a phase-in gives everyone some time to adjust to these changes, the general decision to redesign with less than one year’s notice seems insufficient for the development of a well-thought-out plan.
One wonders where the urgency comes from if the community itself is not calling for this change.
In August, we learned that there was a push for Achievement First to open another school in Hartford.
At the time it was unclear if this would be in a new building entirely, or if this would be shared with another school. By what was said at the Board of Education meeting at the end of August, there was no indication this Achievement First school would be located anywhere except in the city’s south end. Schools reported to be looked at included Burns (195 Putnam), Burr (400 Wethersfield), and MD Fox (470 Maple). State Representatives Ed Vargas and Minnie Gonzalez both attended that meeting and spoke against the creation of a new Achievement First school; Gonzalez said that if the BOE thinks about touching Burns, she would go door-to-door in her district to activate voters.
Now, after Achievement First has received its approval from the Board of Education, it has set its sights on the city’s north end, on the Clark School.
The CMT scores from this school, while not outstanding, do not raise red flags either.
In reading, 37.5% of the school’s third graders tested at/above proficiency in 2013. Compare this to 11.1% at Jumoke at Milner Academy; 15.9% at Burns; 49.1% at MD Fox; 17.9% at Wish; 49.3% at Burr. Additionally, the average in this area for the Hartford Public Schools was 51.6%.
In writing, 65.8% of Clark’s third graders were at/above proficiency in 2013. Compare this to 20.6% at Jumoke at Milner Academy; 31.4% at Burns; 62.3% at MD Fox; 42.9% at Wish; 67.9% at Burr. The average in Hartford for 2013 was 68.1%.
For 2013 math scores, 50% of Clark’s third graders were at/above proficiency. Compare this to 10% at Jumoke at Milner Academy; 22.7% at Burns; 31% at Wish; 62.7% at Burr. The average for the Hartford Public Schools was 59.5%.
It’s reported that the superintendent will be meeting with parents at the Clark School on Monday, October 28th.
There is a special meeting of the Board of Education on Tuesday, October 29th to discuss both the site for Achievement First Academy II and the “replication” of Capital Prep Magnet School’s model, also controversial, in a workshop session. This meeting begins at 4:30pm in the MHIS Conference Room at plaza level, 260 Constitution Plaza.
A Board of Education workshop will take place on November 6th — one day after the Board of Education election — to further discuss proposed new school/redesign models. This will be held at Jumoke at Milner Academy, 104 Vine Street.
The next regular Board of Education meeting is scheduled for November 19th.