In late January, the state’s top elected officials met with civil rights lawyers and the Hartford mother who successfully sued the state 26 years ago in hopes of dismantling the city’s segregated school system. .
“Today we are announcing that we have finally settled and reached a final settlement agreement in Sheff’s landmark desegregation case against O’Neill,” Attorney General William Tong said at a press conference in the city. atrium of his office in Hartford.
A few days later and 2 miles down the road, a group of Trinity College students – some of whom grew up in Hartford – and their teacher would meet to discuss the new state-agreed goal line that will see measure whether schools in the city of Hartford are desegregated.
Their plan: to create a series of charts to help the public understand what state officials promised the children of Hartford — and how close the state is to meeting the new goal line and getting get rid of 26 years of judicial oversight.
To do this, the students spent the semester taking the 87-page settlement filled with hard-to-digest numbers and legalese and translating it into a few charts.
Promise #1: Offer every child in Hartford who applies for a place in an integrated school
Maria Vicuna grew up in Hartford and attended a well-funded, inclusive magnet school after winning the school’s choice lottery. She has two siblings. His brother also won a place.
“It was not the same with my sister. My mother applied for my sister to go to sixth grade, but she was not accepted. And she applied for seventh and eighth, but she didn’t pass either. So it was quite a shame. But you know, it happens.
One of the reasons she enrolled in Trinity’s course was to learn more about the Sheff desegregation case that has such a significant impact on her community. She was also curious about how often her sister’s story of not winning the lottery happens.
This data was not something the state Department of Education had released, despite the frustration of some Hartford residents who believe their children have every chance of winning a place in a well-resourced integrated school in resources.
That all changed with the latest Sheff Agreement, which requires the state to now provide a seat to every black or Hispanic child living in Hartford who wants one. Buried in this agreement is an outline of numbers that can be used to calculate how close the state is to achieving this promise.
Dougherty and his students ran the numbers.
“The state is committed over the next decade to meeting 100% of this demand. And it’s huge. It’s a big goal,” Dougherty said. “Right now, by our best estimates, the data appears to be two-thirds of the way there. I guess it’s a glass half full, but still a long way to go.
The data matches the Vicuna family’s experience, with two of the siblings’ three landing sites at integrated schools.
Promise #2: Significantly increase the number of students attending multiracial, ethnic and economic schools
This promise to provide a place for every child in Hartford who wants one does not apply to students living in the suburbs – but this network of magnet schools is heavily dependent on enrolling middle- and upper-income students from the suburbs. to enter schools.
During the pandemic, data shows suburban applications dropped by about 4,000 students.
Trinity pupils mapped the likely impact this has had, showing that far fewer Hartford pupils were attending integrated schools in recent years.
For years, the state ran its lottery and measured integration by focusing only on racial and ethnic integration.
Now, the new colony also focuses on socio-economic diversity. The new School Choice Lottery allocates seats with the goal of having at least 30% of incoming magnet school students from high-income families and no more than 60% from low-income families.
The state declined CT Public’s request to release the lottery algorithm or the data used in it to determine which students are low- or high-income students.
In the settlement, the state shared the number of low- and high-income students in each school.
“The big takeaway is that the majority of magnet schools are not yet socio-economically integrated,” said Victoria Asfalg. Prior to dating Trinity, she lived in Rocky Hill. She left her suburban school to attend a magnet school in Hartford to get away from the bullying she was experiencing. At Trinity, she and other students found that there were not enough high-income students enrolled in many magnets to be considered mainstream.
Now that the lottery is run with socio-economic diversity in mind, state data for this school year shows that every magnet school is now meeting that inclusive goal.
Promise #3: Significantly increase the number of suburban districts allowing Hartford students to attend their schools
Many affluent suburban communities allowed only a small number of Hartford students to enroll in their neighborhood schools. Research shows that Connecticut is one of the most economically and racially segregated states in the country.
One of the settlement’s promises is to dramatically increase the number of places these suburban schools open up to city students by enticing them with even greater financial incentives.
Funding has not helped in the past.
“I think that the number of places available by the suburban neighborhoods is woefully insufficient. You know when you look at Glastonbury only 1% of their student body is available for Open Choice,” said Martha Stone, one of the civil rights lawyers who successfully sued the state in the Sheff case.
Participation in Open Choice is one of the keys to fulfilling the agreement’s promise to provide every student in Hartford with a place in an integrated school.
“I think we obviously have a long way to go. So, if certain deliverables are not met, we go directly to the courts to enforce them. So, you know, when some people say, ‘Oh, Sheff’s over,’ well, no, Sheff’s not over yet,” Stone said.
Dougherty’s class understands that, and they hope their graphs help the public understand how close the state is to delivering what it promised Hartford students in the most recent agreement.
Promise #4: A better education in an integrated school
The Sheff Agreement requires the state to publicly release key performance indicators so the public can see how Hartford students are doing in magnet schools.
Currently, the published data combines suburban and magnet school student results on things like graduation, suspensions, and standardized tests.
Over the next two weeks, the state plans to release this data for the public to view each school.
This screenshot is from a state Department of Education presentation on the new website that will allow parents to see how Hartford students are doing in integrated schools.
This story was originally published on May 11, 2022 by Connecticut Public Radio.