Harlem Program Singled Out as Model: Obama Administration to Replicate Plan in Other Cities to Boost Poor Children is a lengthy Washington Post piece on the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ).
The HCZ obviously does very good work. I do have some questions, though, about how they relate to parents and to the broader community. From what I have learned (and that just comes from newspaper articles, reading the book Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America , and seeing some video interviews with Geoffrey Canada), I wonder if the HCZ might relate to parents more as clients rather than partners. I also don’t really know what kind of relationships they have with other neighborhood institutions like religious congregations and community groups (I have those same two critiques about most schools).
If they don’t have that kind of grassroots base, I wonder how any kind of real neighborhood transformation will be able to take place. It also puts the HCZ in a politically weakened situation where they are at the mercy of wealthy donors without a power base to push for additional resources.
However, I want to emphasize that these concerns might very well have no foundation in reality, and might just be due to my lack of knowledge. I hope to explore these questions further over the next year, including possibly making a visit.
I’d be interested in hearing from readers who might have more information than me about these issues.
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I asked Geoffrey Canada a different version of the “sustainability” question when he appeared on talk of the nation this week (you can hear it at about 13/14 minutes in at http://www.npr.org/templates/rundowns/rundown.php?prgId=5&prgDate=07-28-2009). My concerns were around bringing it out of the charity model, dependent on grants and donations, and where I feel it belongs which is in government programs. He starts his answer with points about the importance of “feeder school” systems, but ends up talking about the difficulties in locating money, and his hopes that recent government initiatives will help to enlarge and replicate the work he’s been doing.
In comparison to other school reform programs, I like HCZ because it is comprehensive, the “bones” of the program seem good, and *so far* most of my concerns have been addressed. Your take on parents as clients and not partners is worth exploring.
The lessons I take from HCZ, it costs a heck of a lot to close the achievement gap. He spends an additional $4,000 per student in his program. That’s in a state with one of the highest per pupil spending rates already. Money alone may not solve the problem, but without, I think we have bupkis.
would love to hear more about school turnarounds / takeovers and parental involvement. here in d.c., this is pretty much the m.o.:
Leonard’s message to parents is double-edged. He said he has an open-door policy and counts on them to participate. At Bedford, for example, parents are expected to provide meals for the “nine-to-nines,” the marathon test-preparation Saturdays in the spring. But he also told them at an orientation a few years ago: “Just stay out of my way and let me create the scholar, because you’re usually the problem. I’ll see you at graduation.”
(via WaPo, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/01/AR2009080100861_2.html?sid=ST2009071002520)