Harlem Children’s Zone, Is It Working?


Geoffrey Canada’s charter-based educational organization, Harlem Children’s Zone, has won awards from just about everyone, including fawning portrayals on 60 Minutes, and in the recent documentary, “Waiting for Superman.” All of those plaudits have generated large donations to Canda’s network of schools and family service agencies. The Obama administration has even singled out the program as a model for a national network of charter programs as part of a long-term educational strategy.

Well, a February article in City Limits raised some questions about how successful the program has been. And now, the New York Times offers its take on whether HCZ is living up to its hype.

“The jury is still out on its overall impact,” the Times notes. “And its cost — around $16,000 per student in the classroom each year, as well as thousands of dollars in out-of-class spending — has raised questions about its utility as a nationwide model.”

Moreover, the schools’ test scores dropped, according to the Times article. Just 15 percent of 7th graders, in their third year in the program, passed the 2010 state English test

Just 38 percent of Promise Academy I students, one of the elementary schools operated by HCZ, passed the 2010 english. The Times says that places it in the “lower half of charter schools citywide,” and even below the city’s total passing number of 42 percent.

A Brookings’ Institution researcher concluded that not even analysis that its approach actually worked; certainly not enough to justify a large infusion of federal funds, the Times said.

On the other hand, the Times quotes a senior fellow for a Washington think tank who says, “The fact that the impact has not been proven doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist, because it is just very, very hard to prove something about an effort as multifaceted and interactive as this is.”


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