Is Our Bar For Successful Desegregation That Low! Are We Really Celebrating Hartford For Desegregating Less Than Half Of The City’s Kids In Twenty Years?

Is the glass half empty or half full? The classic litmus test for optimism.

I mention this common rhetorical question because right now I think I may be low on optimism after reading a recent article from The American Prospect, a left-leaning bimonthly magazine, lauding Hartford’s record on desegregation:

Hartford, Connecticut, is struggling. Teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, the state’s tiny capital wrestles with many of the same economic challenges as other predominantly poor post-industrial cities along the East Coast. Yet Hartford boasts one remarkably unique feature: Nearly half of its public school students attend desegregated schools.

Is it me or is it pathetic that there are people who cheer when less than of half of the kids in Hartford go to desegregated schools?  Combined with the fact that it’s taken Hartford twenty years and $1.4 billion to get this far, it’s outrageous that the district is repeatedly used as an example of success. The American Prospect’s latest piece is just one example.

Hartford Public Schools is often heralded as a success story for desegregation through voluntary choice, and every time I see it used as an example I have to wonder: Is this a joke? 

Here we are again. The American Prospect article continues patting the Sheff agreement on the back, sixty-three years after Brown v. Board of Education. Should we really be happy that sixty-three years later, 52 percent of Hartford kids remain in hyper-segregated, poorly resourced schools? I think not.

Is This Article A Thinly Veiled Jab At Opponents Of Sheff?

Ok, maybe I shouldn’t assume author intent, but take a look at this statement:

But some Hartford leaders have tired of Sheff, which reduces their authority over city schools, and encourages students to look beyond Hartford for public education.” 

Or, maybe Hartford leaders have grown tired of throwing money at Magnets Schools who can’t get enough white students to apply for them to fill their seats to capacity? This is only mentioned once in the entire article.

This article argues that the problem isn’t the system, but the lack of political will to continue the system:

“Sheff is working: 48 percent of Hartford students are already in integrated schools, a massive improvement without parallel almost anyplace else in the nation. Instead, the challenge has been securing the long-term political commitment to sustain that system—and the financial support to ensure it runs well, which is often the same thing. Integration is possible, but no one would deny it’s been a long, hard road, with more yet to go.”

Has this stipulation been successful?

Maybe for the 48 percent of children in integrated schools, but there’s a whole lot of kids this system isn’t working for and it’s unlikely to get any better because it doesn’t address the root causes of segregation or hold suburbian districts accountable.




What do you think?

One thought on “Is Our Bar For Successful Desegregation That Low! Are We Really Celebrating Hartford For Desegregating Less Than Half Of The City’s Kids In Twenty Years?

  1. It’s worth nothing that there is not a single mention of student outcomes in the American Prospect piece. Not a single line. Before we declare any effort a success, don’t we need to ask: are more Hartford students graduating from HPS ready for college or careers now? Are more kids reading and doing math on grade level? Seems like that’s the info we should be looking at when declaring an effort a “success” or “promising,” but that data on impact is notably absent from the article.

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