The Achilles heel of the Equity 2020 advisory process, to analyze school closing, consolidation, and relocation possibilities, was the absence of deliberation about raising school quality. Instead, the focus was on closing buildings – with the assumption that more resources invested in fewer buildings naturally would enhance equity. Is that a sound assumption?
Efficiency does not necessarily elevate equity, especially when no financial data is being used to inform just how much efficiency can be gained. But it is clear to all that diverting attention and resources toward many low-performing schools, versus fewer mid-performing schools, makes a lot of sense. No question there. One central question remains, however: How will the larger buildings become super high-quality schools?
That’s the same question facing the Weaver Steering Committee, which just last week was re-launched after a few months of absence. The area of focus: co-location. How will three schools with three separate visions, missions, and goals co-exist and share resources in one building?
While this mandate is logical, it’s based on an assumption, which is that Hartford Public Schools already knows how to operate a high-functioning neighborhood high school, where ALL students are prepared for post-secondary advancement. We don’t hold that assumption, based on the track record of neighborhood high school performance. There’s no question that HPS high schools do incredible work preparing youth, but the attendance, discipline, SAT, college enrollment and completion data tell a story of “almost” there, not “there already.”
The community has demanded that Weaver be the best; that it disprove the legend that only magnet schools can achieve near suburban school levels. The community has demanded that the Weaver design process address those problems still plaguing our schools – and, frankly, most urban high schools in American:
- Can we ensure ALL teachers know exactly how to get disengaged youth to engage more deeply than ever, such that they don’t want to miss even one day of school?
- Can we ensure ALL incoming students are READY for high school upon stepping foot into ninth Grade?
- Can we ensure partnership with the local University results in ALL graduates attaining an associate’s degree?
The Bottom Line.
The community demands more from HPS, advocates, and all partners working on the Weaver project; the way this process starts will determine how it ends.
Working with each school separately on issues related to co-location is not addressing the core issues that still prevent our neighborhood high schools from hitting their outcomes for all students. A new process must start to do so – a process that can then be used to address school quality issues at other high schools. We look to the community to voice its standards and ensure that the lessons learned from Equity 2020 fully sink in prior to the Weaver Steering Committee going much farther down the road.