Hartford last Friday was named the Magnet Schools of America (MSA) district of the year for its commitment to equity, excellence, and diversity, as well as to highly sustained support for magnet schools against all odds.

In receiving the MSA honor, Superintendent Beth Schiavino-Narvaez, noting that the District has 20 magnet schools, pledged to continue creating high-quality education options for the residents of Hartford and all students in the region (MSA’s magnet school district of the year award was first given last year, to the Houston Independent School District).

This year, MSA also recognized 11 Hartford schools for their performance: Environmental Sciences Magnet School, Kinsella Magnet School of Performing Arts, Pathways Academy of Technology and Design, and the Sport and Medical Sciences Academy were honored as Magnet Schools of Excellence.  In addition, the Annie Fisher STEM Magnet, Breakthrough Magnet School I & II, University High School of Science & Engineering, Capital Preparatory Magnet School, Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy, and Noah Webster MicroSociety Magnet School garnered awards as Magnet Schools of Distinction.

“I know that our principals continue to be valued contributors and top MSA award winners that bring their knowledge, expertise and experience to enrich our district and they are national thinking partners in magnet school development,” said Executive Director of Choice Enid Rey.

On July 1st, Rey will begin her two-year term on the MSA board of directors, the first HPS staff member to fill that role.

The Bottom Line.  While the State is reportedly attempting to wind down the Sheff case, we recommend that it be mended, not ended.  Expanding choices for Hartford students, making sure seats don’t go unfilled, building stronger connections between neighborhood and magnet schools, and publishing useful data on academic and retention results of Hartford children are just a few of the suggestions we have made to improve perception and reality.

Sheff is the best reform strategy ever put in place for Hartford.  Its remedies should, however, be modernized to achieve its original goal.

This is because its success has been a double-edged sword, serving to highlight the injustice many Hartford families face – having to win a lottery to ensure their child gets an education that meets their standard – and then losing out.  It is our hope that, while we pursue ways to make Sheff work for ever more families and schools, we also do not ignore the lottery losers in our neighborhoods.  Redirecting their resultant animosity into societal energy for Hartford school improvement will be essential to the future of Greater Hartford.