Tag: Harlem Children’s Zone


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Watch: Chris Christie and Geoffrey Canada on the Need to Embrace Reform Teacher Quality Reform


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Within the past year, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has earned the ire of National Education Association bosses and defenders of the state’s traditional public school establishment for daring to…

Within the past year, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has earned the ire of National Education Association bosses and defenders of the state’s traditional public school establishment for daring to overhaul traditional teacher compensation. From finally enforcing a rule requiring teachers to pay a modest amount towards their healthcare benefits to seating a commission to revamp performance evaluations, the governor has become one of the biggest proponents for shaking up a culture of mediocrity that has been far too satisfied with just spending money and not with improving education for poor and minority kids.

In this video, Christie discusses the need to improve teacher quality with Geoffrey Canada, whose Harlem Children’s Zone has been one of the leading proponents for school reform. Watch, listen and consider what needs to be done to ensure that every child gets high-quality instruction.

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Why Russ Whitehurst Gets It Mostly Wrong on Harlem Children’s Zone


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The Harlem Children’s Zone and it’s chief executive, Geoffrey Canada, have not only exemplified what school reformers can do when they take a community-based approach to improving education, but has…

The promise of the Harlem Children's Zone can be seen in Garry Kasparov playing chess with one of its Promise Academy students

The Harlem Children’s Zone and it’s chief executive, Geoffrey Canada, have not only exemplified what school reformers can do when they take a community-based approach to improving education, but has even spawned a movie, an American Express commercial, and the Obama administration’s Promise Neighborhoods program for tackling poverty and education. So naturally, the release of a report this week by the Brookings Institution criticizing the performance of one of the Harlem Children’s Zone’s charter schools (and by proxy, the underlying approach of Promise Neighborhoods) was certainly going to get some attention (along with a terse response from Canada himself). While Canada and the report’s co-authors, Russ Whitehurst and Michelle Croft, get to sparring, here is Dropout Nation‘s analysis of the report and the competing philosophies behind both Harlem Children’s Zone and the Brookings report:

  1. Certainly Harlem Children’s Zone can — and should — do better in improving student achievement in its schools: The fact that its Promise Academy does a better job of improving student achievement than traditional public schools in the community it serves isn’t enough, especially when those schools are abysmal in the first place. Harlem Children’s Zone isn’t just proving itself against those schools, but against other public charters that don’t offer such a wide array of services. More importantly, it comes down to this: Black and Latino children in its school have to do better than average because they often enter school so far behind academically. So Harlem Children’s Zone needs to take a hard look at its performance and get going on improving its outcomes.
  2. But the Brookings report argues unconvincingly that the model doesn’t work: The report doesn’t really attempt any sort of true longitudinal snapshot of academic progress at Promise Academy over time; there is some evidence that Whitehurst and Croft had opportunity to do some longitudinal analysis for grades six-through-eight (from 2007, 2008 and 2009 results), but the report doesn’t offer evidence that such an attempt was made. Certainly the analysis provided offers a sobering glimpse on Harlem Children’s Zone’s success and challenge. But it  also comes to some headline-grabbing conclusions about the program’s future success with incomplete analysis.
  3. The report also underscores an amazingly thoughtless conceit among Beltway school reformers — that grassroots networks don’t really matter: This may not be intentional on the part of Whitehurst and his co-author (or from folks such as Sara Mead), but it seeps through the entire piece. It is also quite incorrect. As Dropout Nation has argued ad nauseum this week, it is the very lack of bodies — especially networks of grassroots activists and churches — that has posed the single-biggest problem for Beltway-based reformers in sustaining their prescriptions for overhauling American public education. It isn’t enough to argue for policies: It also requires getting the hands dirty, working with the 51 million single parents, grandparents and immigrant families ready to embrace school reform (but who lack the resources, especially knowledge and guidance on what high quality education should look like, in order to make it a reality). Given the remaining strength of the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers and their allies on the ground, Beltway reformers need get into the grassroots game. This means understanding that you can’t solve educational issues without also working with those who understand the other social issues (and who can rally support around reform solutions). [By the way: There is also a major difference between the family empowerment through education  approach taken by Canada — who is a co-signatory on the Broader, Bolder manifesto Brookings so rightfully criticizes — and the rest of the crowd, who are defenders of traditional public education and argue that education cannot overcome poverty. Sadly, however, Whitehurst (an otherwise excellent researcher) and Croft neither notes those differences nor provides much nuance on any of this. They should have done so. Period.]
  4. But this doesn’t mean the Harlem Children’s Zone approach is for everyone: The idea behind Canada’s program is powerful and exciting, as is the promise and even the reality. It will serve well the children and families under its umbrella. But there are plenty of successful programs on the community end which can do the social services work better than any school reformer can; after all, there is something called comparative advantage. What Beltway-based school reformers can do (and, in the case of the grassroots-based reform counterparts already do) is form networks of organizations that can handle those social needs, then create data systems that can track how kids are doing over time. Easy to do? Not in the age of FERPA (traditional school districts don’t do this well). But school reformers have the resourcefulness to make this a reality.

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The Dropout Nation Podcast: Using School Reform to Build a Nation of Millions


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On this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast, I discuss how Black America can use school reform and embrace entrepreneurship in order to expand our presence in corporate suites and other areas…

Dropout Nation Podcast CoverOn this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast, I discuss how Black America can use school reform and embrace entrepreneurship in order to expand our presence in corporate suites and other areas of American economic and social power. As wonderful as it may be to see the success of Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama, we need a nation of millions of strong, well-educated African-American men and women to achieve long-lasting success. This, by the way, also applies to Latino and other minorities.

You can listen to the Podcast at RiShawn Biddle’s radio page or download directly to your iPod, MP3 player or smartphone. Also, subscribe to the podcast series. It is also available on iTunes, Blubrry, Podcast Alley, the Education Podcast Network and Zune Marketplace.

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Read: Teacher Performance Edition


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What’s happening this weekend in the dropout nation: New York City Department of Education Chancellor Joel Klein has instructed principals to use student test score data in evaluating probationary teachers…

What’s happening this weekend in the dropout nation:

  1. New York City Department of Education Chancellor Joel Klein has instructed principals to use student test score data in evaluating probationary teachers on their fitness for tenure, reports the New York Post. The AFT’s New York City local is, as you would expect, displeased. Given the past battles — including the move by the AFT to outright ban the use of test data in evaluations two years ago — expect this battle to get nasty. And, just as likely, Randi Weingarten to back further away from her announcement last month that she would back the use of tests in evaluations. But, as Gotham Schools points out, most of the 7,000 teachers being evaluated for tenure won’t be affected by the move because they teach subjects not covered on state assessments.
  2. The bigger uproar is in Houston, where the school district’s board unanimously enacted a measure under which test scores would be used in teacher evaluations. Weingarten has already offered her support for the local’s opposition to the plan, according to the Houston Chronicle. Stephen Sawchuck notes that the AFT may now find itself on a losing end of a battle to control the level to which test scores are used. I’d say the AFT and the NEA are already losing. The traditional teachers compensation system could exist unchanged so long as there was no objective data for measuring performance and the system wasn’t too costly to maintain. Neither of which is the case anymore.
  3. On the matter of teachers, read Kevin Carey’s 2004 report for the Education Trust on the importance of using data in evaluating and ultimately, finding, high quality teachers. Also, Martin Haberman offered thoughts on how better teacher preparation can help address achievement gaps. And Chad Ratliff notes his 2009 post on the need to revamp teacher compensation in Virginia (and taking advantage of federal Race to the Top and i3 dollars to do so).
  4. Also, the Wallace Foundation releases a brief on how states and districts can work together on improving school leadership. In particular, the report notes that strong political backing for school administrators and superintendents — along with keeping those folks in the job for a long time — can help improve the quality of administration and sustaining reforms.
  5. Kevin Carey, by the way, also looks at Trinity Washington University, which gets dinged by U.S. News & World Report‘s annual survey because it serves poor minority women and charges modest tuition to boot. Which could explain why so many state universities give merit scholarships to wealthier families (and devote less aid to their poorest students). Maybe Neal McCluskey has a point after all (of course he does).
  6. In City Limits, Geoffrey Canada offers his thoughts on why the Harlem Children’s Zone is succeeding and whether its model — now embraced by the Obama administration through its proposed Promise Neighborhoods — may succeed outside of New York City (and the financial and talent resources Canada can tap). Sample quote: “can put together a team down here and we can do it. That is not a huge lift. And that’s one of the most exciting but little-understood aspects of this.…. That’s mostly what this problem looks like across America. It’s not Chicago or Detroit or New York. Mostly it’s the [smaller towns]: You’ve got 1,500 kids in trouble and nobody with a strategy for how to save them. Now, you don’t need 50 people from elite colleges to do that.”

Check out the Dropout Nation Podcast on civil rights activists and school reform. The next podcast, on the need for school reformers to build bridges to parents and grassroots activists, will be available on Sunday.

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