Education

Harlem Children’s Zone Responds to the Brookings Study

By Debra Viadero — July 23, 2010 2 min read

You’ll recall that I wrote a few days ago about a new—and controversial—report from the Brookings Institution on the Harlem Children’s Zone’s Promise Academy middle school. In that paper, Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, the former research chief at the U.S. Department of Education, attempted to make the case that the zone’s much-praised Promise Academy I middle school was not much more effective than other charter schools in the Big Apple. And, if other charter schools could be just as successful without providing students with a full menu of expensive social services, the analysis reasoned, why target more public money to replicating the Promise Academy model?

Well, Geoffrey Canada begs to differ. In a response e-mailed to news outlets yesterday, Canada, the driving force behind the Harlem Children’s Zone, says Whitehurst’s analysis is a “wrong-headed take” on the zone’s mission, which is to provide supports for all 8,000 children growing up within the zone, regardless of whether they end up at one of its charter schools or at a traditional public school.

“We believe that even the best schools in impoverished neighborhoods would be significantly improved if there were wraparound support services for their students, families, and communities,” he writes.

The Brookings study, of course, looked at just one of two charter middle schools in the zone—500 students in all. And that’s part of the problem, Canada says. Because, if Whitehurst and Croft had instead analyzed achievement data for the other Promise Academy charter school, Promise Academy II, they would have found it to be in the top quarter when compared with other charter schools serving similar populations in Manhattan and the Bronx. (In the Brookings paper, the first school, Promise Academy I, fell in the “middling” range.)

He also argues that a longer-term look at students’ progress in the school over several years would have yielded more promising findings.

Finally, Canada says the Brookings researchers inadvertently used free- and reduced-price lunch figures that inaccurately portray the extent of poverty in the student population. Because the school provides free lunch to all students, regardless of income, some parents in the early years didn’t turn in the necessary forms for federal meal reimbursements—an oversight administrators remedied later on when they realized the data would be important to future evaluation efforts.

Canada concludes by saying, “We are thrilled to be part of the charter school movement ... However, charter schools are not the only answer. We must improve our traditional public school system since that is where the overwhelming majority of our students are. A crucial part of that effort must be making sure that poor children and families have the support services that so many of us in America have as a matter of choice.”

UPDATE:
Whoops! Canada’s final quote above should have read: “A crucial part of that effort must be making sure that poor children and families have the support services that so many of us in America have as a matter of course.” My apologies for the error.

UPDATE II: Whitehurst and his co-author, Michele Croft, now have a rejoinder to Canada’s response. In it, they note that their intent was not to bash or “trivialize” the Harlem Children’s Zone project. Rather, they write, “we would like to see it continue, thrive, and be the subject of evaluation that will address its impact in a more thorough and long-term way than can be accomplished with the data currently available.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Data Analyst
New York, NY, US
New Visions for Public Schools
Project Manager
United States
K12 Inc.
High School Permanent Substitute Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District
MS STEM Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District

Read Next

Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read