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Some Updates on Promise Neighborhoods

Published:  August 10, 2010
Issues:  

We’ve been keeping an eye on the federal government's new Promise Neighborhoods competitive grant program, which was allocated $10 million for fiscal year 2010. There are a few recent developments worth sharing:

Last week, the Department of Education released information on the 339 applicants who applied this spring for one-year planning grants. A searchable database of application summaries is available on data.ed.gov. You can search through the summaries using various filters, such as by region, by how many rural and tribal communities are applying for grants (the application gives these communities some priority in obtaining planning grants), or by how many institutes of higher education applied. Jenny Cohen, our colleague at New America, wrote a high-level analysis over at Ed Money Watch.

At the end of July, the Brookings Institution released a new analysis questioning the origin of the gains made at the Harlem Children’s Zone, which is widely viewed as the inspiration for the Promise Neighborhoods program. The Brookings report kicked up a lot of dust between education reformers and proponents of the Promise Neighborhoods approach. Geoffrey Canada responded that, among other problems, the analysis did not include outcomes for HCZ's second charter school. The Brookings authors -- Russ Whitehurst and Michelle Croft -- came back with an updated analysis that continued to feed their argument. When comparing the test scores from HCZ charter schools with scores from other charter schools in New York City, Whitehurst and Croft ask a crucial question: Do children at the Harlem Children’s Zone charter schools outperform similar children at other charter schools in New York City on measures of math and language arts? Their analysis finds no evidence that this is the case, begging the question of what value is added by the community services that the HCZ provides in addition to the charter school.

Finally, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported last month that the Center for Family Services in Camden, New Jersey and La Casa de Don Pedro in Newark, New Jersey, will undergo a year-long planning mission with the Harlem Children’s Zone on how to implement the HCZ’s strategy in two local neighborhoods. This will be the most intensive training that the Harlem Children’s Zone has attempted so far.

We've been tracking whether Promise Neighborhoods and other early learning initiatives will get a boost in the fiscal year 2011 budget. And this fall, Early Ed Watch will be taking a longer look at community schools, such as those proposed in Promise Neighborhoods. Be sure to take a look at our in-depth analysis of these programs then.

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