In Hartford, Parents Don't Always Pick Best Schools Connecticut's Hartford Public Schools district lets parents pick which school to send their child to. As the theory goes, parents should naturally choose the good schools over the bad ones — but as it turns out, they often don't.
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In Hartford, Parents Don't Always Pick Best Schools

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In Hartford, Parents Don't Always Pick Best Schools

In Hartford, Parents Don't Always Pick Best Schools

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

But as Jeff Cohen from member station WNPR reports, they often don't.

(SOUNDBITE OF A CROWD)

JEFF COHEN: It's dismissal time outside Moylan School. Kids are throwing snowballs and eating cupcakes, buses line up and move out. And Alfonso Castillo is walking to pick up his third grade girl. He was disappointed to hear that the school would probably close.

ALFONSO CASTILLO: I have never had a problem with this school and I'd be really disappointed if they closed it. I don't think this should be one of the schools they should be closing.

MYESHA SIMPSON: My name is Myesha Simpson. I'm PTO president at Moylan, and I have four kids here.

COHEN: The reason? The school's test scores were too low. But Simpson says that what she wants is for the district to improve Moylan, not reorganize it.

SIMPSON: If they could just help out with the school that they're in their neighborhood, wouldn't that be better?

COHEN: What makes this school good for you? Is it...

SIMPSON: The teachers and the way that they teach.

COHEN: Even if the numbers aren't good?

SIMPSON: Even if the numbers aren't great, they're learning. They're improving.

COHEN: Christina Kishimoto is the city's Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Schools. She says Moylan has been underperforming for years by federal standards.

CHRISTINA KISHIMOTO: We had already given them a year leeway because they had made progress. So we wanted to see if they could sustain that progress. The progress wasn't sustained.

COHEN: Tell that to PTO President Myesha Simpson. She points out that some of Moylan's numbers were just barely off the mark, and she doesn't want her children to go anywhere else.

SIMPSON: I love the school, I love the teachers. I love the way they teach. I love they way they solve they problems. I love the way they handle things.

COHEN: Sarah Yatsko knows the sentiment well. She's a researcher from the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington, and has studied Hartford's school reform. At a presentation to the Board of Education earlier this year, Yatsko said that Hartford parents don't always choose the schools the district wants them to.

SARAH YATSKO: We saw some schools that were low performing yet very, very high parent satisfaction rates. That's something that the district should pay attention to and question and wonder about. Because if this model really is to work, you want parents to choose the schools that are the high- performing schools.

COHEN: Unidentified Woman: Do you want to be in medicine?

(SOUNDBITE OF COMMERCIAL)

COHEN: And a group of education advocates has built a website to help inform parents about their schools; giving them information from test scores to location to the school's racial makeup.

(SOUNDBITE OF COMMERCIAL)

INSKEEP: I choose.

INSKEEP: I choose.

INSKEEP: Unidentified Children: We choose the Hartford Public Schools.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOOTSTEPS)

COHEN: But as she walks her kids' home, Myesha Simpson says that more information from the district might change the choices that some parents make, but it won't change hers.

SIMPSON: This is where we live. We're going to be here for the rest of our lives.

COHEN: For NPR News, I'm Jeff Cohen in Hartford.

INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

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