Preview chapter
—part 4: challenges of desegregation & choice

For nearly half a century, school desegregation advocates have pushed for a metropolitan Hartford solution to lift urban minority students up to the same quality of education as white suburban students. Advocates lobbied for voluntary interdistrict busing in the 1960s, then pressed for stronger desegregation mandates across the entire metropolitan region in the 1989 Sheff v O’Neill lawsuit. Victory finally arrived for the Sheff plaintiffs in the Connecticut supreme court’s 1996 decision, by a 4-3 vote, that racial and socioeconomic isolation deprived Hartford schoolchildren of their state constitutional right to an equal education opportunity. Yet the court did not specify any remedy or timetable to address this injustice, handing the responsibility over to the executive and legislative branches, where neither the Republican Governor nor the Democrat-led General Assembly desired to alter the boundary lines that divided city and suburban districts. Although Sheff allies proposed a metropolitan school district to unite students across the Hartford region, this bold plan never gained sufficient political traction among local education officials in the suburbs, nor the city, as Trinity researcher Jennifer Williams documented in her interviews with key actors. At present, the limited school desegregation remedies that exist in the Hartford region are based primarily on voluntary measures, under the popular slogan of “choice,” that effectively protect the interests of privileged suburban families while delivering only partial justice to the intended urban beneficiaries. 1

Elizabeth Horton Sheff

Click to view Elizabeth Horton Sheff oral history video interview and transcript in new tab.

In 1966, when representatives of the Project Concern interdistrict busing program attempted to persuade suburban districts to enroll small numbers of Hartford minority students in their districts, they encountered intense resistance from white residents determined to defend their boundary lines. Trinity researcher Grace Beckett discovered that even in West Hartford, one of the few districts that eventually agreed to start up Project Concern, the controversy generated the largest crowd (estimated at 1,200) at a board of education meeting, including many residents who booed religious leaders speaking in support of the plan. After the initial controversy faded, more suburban districts agreed to participate in Project Concern and accept the state subsidy that came with it. In its peak year in 1979, the program enabled approximately 1,175 Hartford students to enroll in suburban districts. Based on 24 interviews that students conducted with Project Concern alumni, Trinity researcher Dana Banks and I found a mix of support and ambivalence about the program. More than half suggested that daily bus rides of an hour (or more) represented a “forced choice,” with less autonomy than the suburbs that voluntarily decided to accept them. 2

A second wave of voluntary metropolitan desegregation arose with interdistrict magnet schools, designed to attract families from city and suburban towns with specialized curricula. While three magnets emerged in Hartford during the 1980s, the largest expansion occurred in the aftermath of the Sheff ruling, when the state legislature agreed to fund most construction costs for selected proposals. Magnet schools became a politically popular response to segregation because they allowed individual suburban districts and families to “choose” whether or not to participate in a policy solution. 3

Magnet schools also served multiple interests, and not exclusively those of Hartford students. In the early 1990s, Trinity College faced increasing urban poverty and declining admissions statistics, and its Board of Trustees “even began to explore the feasibility of moving the College out of the city,” according to former vice president Kevin Sullivan. Incoming Trinity President Evan Dobelle leveraged private endowment funds to gain state support for the Learning Corridor, a $110 million magnet school complex built on an abandoned field adjacent to the campus in 2000. But Trinity researcher Nivia Nieves and I found that Sheff magnet school funding diverted earlier plans for a Hartford neighborhood school, and reduced the number of seats available to city youth from the Latino community around campus. Although interdistrict magnets were more racially diverse than most city or suburban schools, the relatively low percentage of Hartford students able to attend them led Trinity researcher Sarah Kaminski to question their effectiveness in addressing overall segregation levels. 4

Years after the Sheff ruling, plaintiffs and state officials finally agreed to a legal settlement in 2003, with a four-year goal of placing 30 percent of Hartford minority students in “reduced isolation” settings, generally defined as schools with under 75 percent minority students. Together with Trinity researchers Jesse Wanzer and Christina Ramsay, our Missing the Goal report illustrated the limited success of voluntary remedies in meeting that objective, followed by a more detailed analysis of overlapping policy obstacles. We also detected spatial inequalities in how desegregation was implemented. For instance, suburban districts enrolling the highest proportion of Hartford minority students through the Open Choice transfer program (previously known as Project Concern) were more likely to be located farther away from the city, requiring longer bus rides. Also, suburban districts with the highest magnet school participation rates were more likely to have fewer White students (such as Bloomfield), making racial balance more difficult than desegregation planners had anticipated. In 2008, plaintiffs and state officials agreed to a second Sheff settlement, featuring a more comprehensive management plan and a more ambitious desegregation goal to be reached by 2013. 5

View the full report, Missing the Goal (2007) in a new tab/window.

View the full Missing the Goal (2007) report in a new tab/window.

Public school choice became more prevalent in the Hartford area in 2008, as the new Regional School Choice Office recruited suburban applicants for interdistrict desegregation, and the Hartford Public Schools launched its own district-wide choice initiative to increase school accountability. For many Hartford parents, the opportunity to go “shopping for schools” as suburban parents had done felt empowering, yet the confusion caused by competing choice programs (with similar names but separate application processes) was overwhelming. To address this concern, Trinity students and community partners and I collaborated with Academic Computing staff Jean-Pierre Haeberly and David Tatem, and Social Science Center Coordinator Rachael Barlow. In January 2009, we launched SmartChoices, a parent-friendly digital guide that lists all eligible public school options across the metropolitan region, with an interactive map and tools to sort schools by distance, racial balance, and student achievement. With funding from a local education foundation, Trinity students conducted parent outreach workshops with hands-on guidance on using the tool, while interviewing parents in English or Spanish about their decision-making process. Based on our sample of 93 workshop participants, we found that providing richer information makes a difference: two-thirds either changed or clarified their top-ranked school after the hands-on workshop, and many found options with higher test scores or greater racial balance located closer to their neighborhood. But we also observed some Black and Latino parents using the tool to avoid schools with high concentrations of students from racial groups other than their own. 6

Trinity student researcher Ada Avila and colleagues interview Hartford parents during SmartChoices workshop in 2009.

Click to search the SmartChoices site in new tab.

To better understand this secondary “shopping for schools” market, the next phase of our research is to analyze which Hartford families do (and do not) participate in public school choice programs, and the types of schools they desire. Working with Professor Diane Zannoni and another team of econometrics students, we are comparing choice applicant data to thousands of records from the broader school population, to search for characteristics that may be associated with individual students, their classmates, and their neighborhoods. Our spatial analysis builds upon prior work by Trinity researchers who used geographic information system (GIS) tools to analyze magnet school application data, or conducted door-to-door interviews with parents in selected Hartford neighborhoods with very high or low application rates. Displaying our results through data maps also enables us to study how different stakeholders interpret their meaning. 7

More research remains to be done in several related areas that Trinity students and faculty have begun to study. Our understanding of magnet schools would improve with further examination of student-to-student relationships and attitudes toward other races. We also would benefit from more cultural comparisons between suburban school districts, and analysis of achievement gaps within suburban districts. The role played by Catholic and private schools in educational markets deserves closer study, as does the legislative history of funding school districts and interdistrict programs. Of course, fruitful ideas for researching schooling and housing in metropolitan Hartford can be found in publications by scholars at other institutions, and in works on other regions. 8

Conclusion
While our society preaches the ideal of equal educational opportunity, our CSS Project research has challenged my students to recognize the powerful role that real estate values play in determining access to this public good, and raising (or lowering) its market value. Although we call them “public” schools, we buy and sell access to most as “private” commodities, based on the underlying real estate and governmental boundary lines that restrict entry. Access to more desirable elementary and secondary schooling became more valuable in the post-World War II labor market, with rising economic returns for students attaining higher education degrees, which fueled the practice of “shopping for schools” in suburbs today. As civil rights activists have battled against barriers to equal access over the years, state lawmakers have gradually begun to decouple housing and schooling by offering interdistrict transfers and magnet schools, which do not require families to rent or buy a home in a suburban district. In essence, Connecticut’s voluntary desegregation policy has created a second “shopping” marketplace, called public school choice, in our attempt to remedy the ills of the existing market based on private housing.

Yet desirable public school options remain scarce. Moreover, this second government-run choice market relies on individual families (with varying levels of literacy) to sort through glossy brochures and competing advertising campaigns to identify the “best” schools for their children, without fully considering the aggregated effects of these decisions on who gets ahead, and who is left behind.

By itself, research will not eliminate the disparities that divide us. But it is an essential step in the process. Uncovering the underlying causes of inequalities, and understanding the success and limitations of past reform efforts, helps us come to terms with the depth and scope of the real issues facing us. Learning about the evolution of cities, suburbs, and schools — particularly in the company of reflective community partners, with perspectives broader than our own — can teach us important lessons about privilege and power, and strengthen our collective capacity. Reconstructing a roadmap of how we arrived at our present-day policy dilemmas does not provide us with a detailed reform agenda. But the process can suggest possible avenues and future directions for moving all of us a few steps forward.

Notes:

  1. Jennifer Williams, “The Unthinkable Remedy: The Proposed Metropolitan Hartford School District” (Cities, Suburbs, and School Project presentation, Trinity College, 2006). Available from the Trinity College Digital Repository, Hartford, Connecticut, (http://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/cssp_papers/19/).
  2. Grace Beckett, “Suburban Participation in Hartford’s Project Concern School Desegregation Program, 1966-1998” (Educational Studies Senior Research Project, Trinity College, December 2004) Available from the Trinity College Digital Repository, Hartford, Connecticut,(http://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/cssp_papers/11/); Dana Banks and Jack Dougherty, “City-Suburban Desegregation and Forced Choices: Review Essay of Susan Eaton’s the Other Boston Busing Story,” Teachers College Record 106, (May 2004): 985-996, available from the Trinity College Digital Repository, Hartford, Connecticut,(http://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/facpub/21/). See also Laurie Gutmann, “Whose Concern Matters? Student Support and Project Concern” (Educational Studies Senior Research Project, Trinity College, May 2003) Available from the Trinity College Digital Repository, Hartford, Connecticut, (http://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/cssp_papers/17/).
  3. See early magnet school history in Thomas C. Reynolds, “Magnet Schools and the Connecticut Experience” (Public Policy master’s thesis, Trinity College, 1994).
  4. Kevin B. Sullivan and James A. Trostle, “Trinity College and the Learning Corridor: A Small, Urban Liberal Arts College Launches a Public Magnet School Campus,” Metropolitan Universities 15, no. 3 (Summer 2004): 15-34; Peter J. Knapp, in collaboration with Anne H. Knapp, Trinity College in the Twentieth Century: A History (Hartford, CT: Trinity College, 2000); Nivia Nieves and Jack Dougherty, “Latino Politicians, Activists, and Parents: The Challenge of Implementing City-Suburban Magnet Schools” (Conference paper presented at the American Educational Research Association, April 2006) Available from the Trinity College Digital Repository, Hartford, Connecticut, (http://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/cssp_papers/30/); Sarah Kaminski, “Magnet Schools: An Effective Solution to Sheff V O’Neill?,” Trinity Papers 21, (2002): 63-71, available from the Trinity College Digital Repository, Hartford, Connecticut, (http://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/cssp_papers/9/).
  5. Jack Dougherty, Jesse Wanzer, and Christina Ramsay, Missing the Goal: A Visual Guide to Sheff Vs. O’Neill School Desegregation (Cities, Suburbs, and Schools Research Project at Trinity College, revised October 2007) Available from the Trinity College Digital Repository, Hartford, Connecticut,(http://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/cssp_papers/6/); Jack Dougherty, Jesse Wanzer, and Christina Ramsay, “Sheff vs O’Neill: Weak Desegregation Remedies and Strong Disincentives in Connecticut, 1996-2008,” in From the Courtroom to the Classroom: The Shifting Landscape of School Desegregation, ed. Claire Smrekar and Ellen Goldring, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press, 2009). Available from the Trinity College Digital Repository, Hartford, Connecticut, (http://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/cssp_papers/3/).
  6. Devlin Hughes, Designing Effective Google Maps for Social Change: A Case Study of SmartChoices (September 2009) Available from the Trinity College Digital Repository, Hartford, Connecticut,(http://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/cssp_papers/8/); Jack Dougherty, Diane Zannoni, Maham Chowhan, Courteney Coyne, Benjamin Dawson, Tehani Guruge, Begaeta Nukic, “School Information, Parental Decisions, and the Digital Divide: The SmartChoices Project in Hartford, Connecticut” in Making School Choice Work for All, ed. Gary Orfield and Erica Frankenberg, (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, forthcoming).
  7. Naralys Estevez and Jack Dougherty, “Do Magnet Schools Attract All Families Equally? A GIS Mapping Analysis of Latinos” (Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association, 2006) Available from the Trinity College Digital Repository, Hartford, Connecticut, (http://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/cssp_papers/16/); Jesse Wanzer, Heather Moore, and Jack Dougherty, “Race and Magnet School Choice: A Mixed-Methods Neighborhood Study in Urban Connecticut” (Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association, 2008) Available from the Trinity College Digital Repository, Hartford, Connecticut,(http://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/cssp_papers/22/); Brittany Price, “The Usage of Maps in Facilitating Conversations With Stakeholders About Educational Desegregation in Hartford” (Educational Studies Senior Research Project, Trinity College, December 2009). Available from the Trinity College Digital Repository, Hartford, Connecticut,(http://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/cssp_papers/26/).
  8. On student relations and attitudes, see Molly Schofield, “Increasing Interracial Relationships” (Educational Studies Senior Research Project, Trinity College, December 2002) Available from the Trinity College Digital Repository, Hartford, Connecticut, (http://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/cssp_papers/24/); Nicola Blacklaw, “The Presence of Contact Conditions in a Magnet School” (Educational Studies Senior Research Project, Trinity College, Fall 2002) Available from the Trinity College Digital Repository, Hartford, Connecticut, (http://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/cssp_papers/12/); David Reuman, “Effects of an Inter-District Manget Program on Inter-Racial Attitudes At School” (Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association, April 2003), available from the Trinity College Digital Repository, Hartford, Connecticut, (http://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/cssp_papers/32/). On suburban districts see Antonio DePina, “Comparing Suburban School Culture in Metropolitan Hartford: How Does the Formal and Hidden Curriculum Vary Across Two High Schools?” (Educational Studies Senior Research Project, Trinity College, Fall 2003) Available from the Trinity College Digital Repository, Hartford, Connecticut, (http://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/cssp_papers/15/); Rebecca Wetzler, “The Effects of Health, Mobility, and Socio-Economic Status Factors on Race Gap in Achievement,” (Psychology Senior Thesis, Trinity College, May 2006), available from the Trinity College Digital Repository, Hartford, Connecticut, (http://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/cssp_papers/20/). On private schools see Carmen Green, “Catholic Schools, Racial Change, and Suburbanization, 1930-2000” (Paper presented at the History of Education Society, November 2004) Available from the Trinity College Digital Repository, Hartford, Connecticut, (http://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/cssp_papers/13/); Heather Moore, “Private School Choice and Educational Outcomes in Metropolitan Hartford” (Cities, Suburbs, and Schools presentation, Trinity College, July 2005). On funding see Lis Pennington, Emily Steele, and Jack Dougherty, “A Political History of School Finance Reform in Metropolitan Hartford, Connecticut, 1945-2005” (Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association, April 2007) Available from the Trinity College Digital Repository, Hartford, Connecticut, (http://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/cssp_papers/29/); David MacDonald, “The Funding of Interdistrict Magnet Schools in Connecticut: A Failed Approach to Addressing the Sheff vs. O’Neill Connecticut Supreme Court Ruling?” (Public Policy Studies graduate course paper, Trinity College, May 2005), Available from the Trinity College Digital Repository, Hartford, Connecticut, (http://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/cssp_papers/34/).

17 Responses to part 4: challenges of desegregation & choice

  1. Fionnuala Darby-Hudgens says:

    The majority of this short piece has been taught in the current CSS seminar; interestingly though the philanthropic undertaking of Trinity College’s Learning Corridor is a hushed topic around campus. I have heard whispers of “failed gentrification project”, and “the college desiring more urban out reach without having to go urban”, but this is the first I have read that private endowment funds were leveraged for the project and even worse that it may have halted funding for a neighborhood school.
    Harvard Graduate school of Education promotes on its website that it produces leaders who develop their own charters; like Trinity’s Learning Corridor this is not necessarily a bad thing. Although, why place solutions on-top of existing structures? Hartford has a public school system – if its broken, fix it, or get rid of it. Why add to the mountain of possibilities? It is not creating any excellent options but rather filling the pool of less than ideal options. School choice is wonderful in theory; like Trinity students who get to fill a shopping cart of classes each semester parents can now shop for their children’s school. But, it does not eradicate inequality if obvious divides in capital exist. Although literacy levels are mentioned in this article, barriers to transportation, digital information, and language are also factors that limit the structure of choice in its quest for equality.

  2. Ashley Ardinger says:

    The idea of “shopping” for a school in Hartford has become more and more prevalent over the years due to the new Open Choice policies. Issues such as the ones discussed in this essay, as well as the idea that having too much choice is paralyzing Hartford residents. The fact that today’s perception of the open choice program is fueled by the post world-war II labor market. The barriers that have been created by these school choice programs have created intense racial and ethnic segregation within the neighborhoods, which poses a new problem for the city on top of all the other money, policy and resource issues.
    Another interesting piece of this essay is the response to the Sheff vs. O’Neill case. Why would judges turn to the executive and legislative branches for support instead of the administration in charge of these schools. It has been confirmed on many occasions, specifically by the head of Achieve Hartford, that each individual school principals in Hartford have the ability to make decisions regarding their school. Therefore, wouldn’t it make more sense for the Sheff vs. O’Neill decision to put pressure on administrators of the Hartford schools to facilitate change within the schools? It’s a problem to try to figure out where to place responsibility for the school inequalities and ethnic/cultural barriers, but putting it in the hands of high policy makers is clearly not working.
    Clearly, the relationship between Trinity College and its surrounding areas could be stronger since the Trinity community could make significant change due to their socioeconomic status and higher education within the Trinity bubble. I believe that we are the beginning of the movement towards change within schools in Hartford. If more Trinity students backed the Sheff vs. O’Neill case and its response within the community, I think that more could be done and it would be done in a more timely fashion.

  3. Bryan Garrett-Farb says:

    This chapter argues that

    “At present, the limited school desegregation remedies that exist in the Hartford region are based primarily on voluntary measures, under the popular slogan of “choice,” that effectively protect the interests of privileged suburban families while delivering only partial justice to the intended urban beneficiaries.”

    It goes on to focus on the specific ways in which Sheff remedies have not possessed enough teeth to cut into school desegregation. Specifically, the introduction of “Open Choice” and magnet schools into the Hartford area have only put a dent into racial isolation of Hartford Public School students. The failure of these remedies is not primarily because they are too shallow, as this chapter argues, but rather because they are too narrow. Racial isolation exists between the city of Hartford and its suburbs, not Hartford public schools and suburban public schools. Certainly racial isolation exists in the classroom, but it also persists in transportation, access to technology, healthy food, extracurricular activities, and more. Since schools do not exist in a vacuum, but are strongly influenced by their surroundings, racial isolation in schools can’t be addressed without addressing racial isolation in cities. To truly remedy school segregation, the government must remedy segregation period.

  4. Booker Evans says:

    Throughout this year I have been learning more and more about magnet schools. At first glance I had the feeling that magnet schools were bad because they privitize schooling which in my opinion should be free to the public. This was my opinion until I learned more about the Sheff case which allowed Hartford an opportunity to desegregate schools and provide equal educations to the students enrolled. It is still very hard for parents and students alike to find education that suits them.

  5. Courtney Chaloff says:

    “Shopping for schools” is an interesting term reflecting policies related to school choice. By creating “choice” for families, there is a hope that equal opportunity to schools will eventually exist. Bryan mentioned that that racial segregation in schools can’t be addressed without first looking at and fixing the problem of racial segregation in general. This comment and other attempts to understand the causes of segregation in schools poses an interesting question to me. Should we stop concerning our efforts on the causes of school segregation and focus primarily on how to control the effects?
    In addition, there seems to be two different areas to address – the individual school or the district. Perhaps it would be best to target individual schools and focus on changes within that particular school. However, others may argue that the problem is bigger than any individual school and is a district issue. With these two conflicting sides, I wonder how anything may actually get done. Some put their efforts into fixing individual schools while others focus on the district at large. Maybe both attempts will work but in order for there to be efficient and significant changes, I feel that there needs to be a focus on one thing at a time. After all, these people are all working towards a similar goal to improve educational quality for all students. If the schools, districts, administrators, board of education, etc. get on the same page of how to reach this goal, it should be much more feasible task.

  6. Jessica Schlundt says:

    The city of Hartford has seen various attempts at making educational opportunity more equal and giving the inner city kids a chance to be better educated. These attempts were made through voluntary bussing to the suburbs, opening the school boundaries for more choice options, and magnet school opportunity. This is clearly important, but seems to have had limited success. One problem was that parents were often overwhelmed by the choices and how to pick a good school. Attempts to help the parents by talking them through the decision making process was a help, and created some degree of success. Part of the reason they may not have been prepared is that many do not speak English well, and don’t use computers, which limits their communication.

    Another problem that I have personally observed in my second year working in a Hartford Public school with pre-school kids is that the many of the parents don’t seem very involved with their children’s education. Many of the kids have parents who have been or are currently in jail. These kids don’t seem to have a family model that values education. Parents seem to want their kids to get an education, but don’t seem willing or able to provide help themselves. A Hartford teacher told me she felt these kids were more than a year behind academically (not even knowing their ABC’s or basic numbers) because of their lack of interest and support at home. I can verify this with my own observations.

    Hartford’s inner city families must value education and be able to contribute to it for greater progress to be made.

  7. Candace Baker says:

    A part of this reading that stood out to me was the section about SmartChoices. We discussed the purpose and the site in class; and I think that it is a very important part of the change that needs to take place in Hartford. SmartChoices has made “shopping for schools” not as confusing and overwhelming for parents as it used to be. It says that many of the parents who used SmartChoices were able to to find schools that had higher test scores and a greater racial balance. However, there were those parents who used the site to avoid schools with a high racial balance. In a sense I feel that this almost defeats the purpose of SmartChoices, which was to easily provide information for parents so that they could make decisions that would benefit their children by giving them an equal opportunity to learn. Regardless of these few families who have misused the site, SmartChoices has still achieved its goal to provide a level playing field for parents and their children in Hartford.

  8. Mary Morr says:

    What I see as one of the major challenges of desegregation, especially when coupled with school choice, is the fact that race neutral decisions can still have racially isolating effects. Through practices like redlining and steering, racist practices resulted in the social and economic isolation of minorities in Connecticut. As a result, the quality of education in Hartford has declined, which makes it even harder for the children of disadvantaged families to rise above those conditions as adults. It is therefore statistically true that schools in Hartford, with high percentages of minority students, score lower than schools in the suburbs. Parents deciding where to send their school might choose to avoid Hartford schools not on the basis of race, but simply on test scores. This is a race neutral decision, but because of historical trends its impact is to increase racial segregation and isolation. How do we convince parents to let their children be the experimenters in order to prove that racial and socioeconomic integration will improve school and student performance? Parents are justified in making school choice decisions based on statistics of school performance, but in order for the statistics to not link low school performance to urban settings with high minority percentages, parents need to ignore those statistics. Racial practices have created a self-reinforcing system, which makes it particularly difficult to come up with effective solutions.

  9. Shanese Caton says:

    The option to shop for schools for your children is one that allows for Hartford parents to choose the best educational opportunities for their children despite racial and economical barriers. Although overwhelming, this puts the futures of the children in the hands of the parents allowing them to give them the chance of success that they want them to achieve. They will not be subject restrictive barriers that once held them from accessing sources of opportunity.

  10. Victoria Smith Ellison says:

    Hartford’s Open Choice (formerly known as Project Concern) program appeared to be a great solution, but as I learned the history behind the existing initiative I began to question how effective it is in its efforts to improve the quality of schools. The information on the interdistrict magnet schools really intrigued me. I never viewed of the creation of magnet schools as a way to privatize education because they are still considered “public schools”. It is unfortunate that despite the efforts to improve the quality education of Hartford residents, in addition to combatting the racial inequalities that were very central in promoting this change, they were still disadvantaged because they weren’t always able to attend these schools. I would be interested in knowing whether magnet schools have a specific percentage of ethnic balance that they want to achieve for the various ethnic groups or if all minorities are grouped together, further leaving certain groups more disadvantaged (especially knowing the high latino population that live in Hartford).

  11. Genevieve Uslander says:

    The saying “knowledge is power” is one that applies strongly to the SmartChoices Program and to the access that Hartford parents have to schools. With the digital guides and maps now available to parents, people are more informed and therefore able to make better choices for their families. Maps also allow parents to actually see where the school is, which sounds so simple but puts the entire experience of choosing a school in perspective. Publishing new materials concerning school choice or creating new schools while not equipping parents with the knowledge and therefore power to make informed decisions negates the good act. I believe there is such a high level of confusion and therefore frustration when analyzing which school is best for one’s child and it was imperative that more resources were made accessible. I also find it crucial and wonderful that workshops were offered in both English and Spanish. It is so important that parents feel understand and well informed when making a decision; having dual-language programs enables that.

  12. Emma Barton says:

    Would giving the people the ability to choose what school they want to attend put the greater district at a disadvantage because it “creams out” the best students? Does this widen the achievement gap?

  13. Raquel Beckford says:

    I am in favor of the “SmartChoice” guide for parents to educate them on the type of school environment their children will learn in. What are the chances of a student getting into the schools their parents have chosen? Is it based on a lottery? Is there a guaranteed spot for their child? If not, what are the other options?

  14. Ollie Rothmann says:

    When the families rank their school choice when they apply, do most of them get their top choice? How is it determined who gets their top choice as opposed to a family that gets their fourth choice?

  15. Jen Idrovo says:

    WiIll knowing the “right people” at Smart Choice boost a person’s chances of attending their desired school? Do public officials have any power in Smart Choice?

  16. Allie Macaluso says:

    Going to school in your own district is the only option when attending public school, but if it means that impoverished students will recieve a better chance and better education, how do we make it possible for them? Should suburban areas be redrawn to include a larger percentage of people in the city?

  17. Henry Lucey says:

    Have voluntary desegregation policies liked the ones used in Hartford, been successful in other cities?

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