November 12th, 2009

Harlem Children's Zone, 2.0

In 2010, President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be giving out a total of $10 million in grant money to twenty potential “Promise Neighborhoods” across the country. Their use of the word “Promise” is a nod to the inspiration for the program–Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone, and its Promise Academy charter schools. In order to receive grants, communities will have to propose plans for comprehensive community programs that replicate HCZ’s model and, ideally, match its success.obamacanada

“Changing the Odds: Learning from the Harlem Children’s Zone Model,” a three-day conference attended by upwards of 1,000 educators, municipal leaders, and non-profit workers, was held earlier this week in New York. Secretary Duncan gave a keynote address, explaining that grants would be competitive, and that communities must base their proposals on already existing systems of schools–money won’t be spent on good ideas alone.

The Harlem Children’s Zone has received extraordinary praise for the very real gains it has produced in reading and math achievement among students who attend Promise Academy schools. As the New York Times‘ David Brooks points out, “In math, Promise Academy eliminated the achievement gap between its black students and the city average for white students.”

But Harlem Children’s Zone has some advantages over its proteges, among them a politically savvy, high-profile leader and a $65 million yearly budget furnished by big sponsors (including the chairman of American Express). Without that kind of influence or cash, it’s unclear that other programs will be able to match HCZ’s explosive success.

Non-Profits Look at Harlem Children’s Zone and Ask: Only in New York? [WNYC, 11/11/09]
The Harlem Miracle [David Brooks, NY Times, 5/7/09]
In The Zone [Ed Beat, LMtv, 8/28/09]

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