During his campaign, President Obama highlighted an education and anti-poverty program called the Harlem Children’s Zone, which he said he’d like to replicate across the nation if he got elected. The program offers a comprehensive approach with everything from “Baby College” for new parents to a charter school, youth violence prevention programs and more. The idea behind this effort is that ending a cycle of poverty and sending more kids to college requires changing the community as well as educational opportunities.
Fast forward to 2010 and organizations in cities across America competed for grants for the Promise Neighborhoods Initiative. Just 21 out of more than 300 community applications actually got the federal funding. The $10 million in federal grant money is targeted at those programs that reflect the president’s desire for a “cradle to career” approach to education.
Though the Harlem Children’s Zone has garnered largely positive attention, there are those who question its efficacy. A recent report from the Brookings Institution found that while the HCZ charter school has a positive impact on student performance, the other HCZ initiatives do not appear to have a direct correlation with academic achievement.
Have you benefited from a community-based program like those in the Harlem Children’s Zone model? What programs have you seen change a community? Have you been a part of a program with good intentions that just wasn’t able to deliver its intended results? How much do community services impact education?
- Paul Tough: Author of Whatever It Takes
- Nichole Maher: Executive director of the Native American Youth and Family Center
- Grover “Russ” Whitehurst: Senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, author of a study on Promise Neighborhoods and the Harlem Children’s Zone
- Jim Seymour: Executive director of Catholic Community Services of the Mid-Willamette Valley and Central Coast