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20 Communities Awarded 2011 Grants for Promise Neighborhoods

Published:  December 20, 2011

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education announced 20 winners of the 2011 Promise Neighborhoods grants. This year, in addition to 15 small planning grants to help communities plot out future promise neighborhoods, the Department of Education awarded five larger “implementation grants” of between $1.4 and $5.9 million dollars for fiscal year 2011.

The program is the Obama administration’s attempt to scale up the Harlem Children’s Zone, an education and community-based model that seeks to break the poverty cycle in a specified low-income area by coordinating the efforts of schools, early childhood centers, health care, and other community services.

Promise Neighborhoods has our attention at Early Ed Watch for several reasons, first and foremost its focus on early learning and building a “cradle-to-career” educational pipeline for kids. Additionally, the program focuses on aligning services, often starting with prenatal care and counseling for pregnant mothers, which is crucial for the development of young children. We’re also curious to see if the program can help break down barriers that often exist between agencies such as a local Head Start center and an elementary school.

For fiscal year 2012, Congress funded Promise Neighborhoods at $60 million, which was almost twice the level of funding for the program in fiscal year 2011 and yet still far short of the $150 million requested by the Obama Administration. Still, there is no guarantee that the Promise Neighborhoods program will exist for long enough to see any promise neighborhoods develop fully in a geographic area. There’s also no guarantee that this attempt at re-creating an ambitious education strategy like the Harlem Children’s Zone will succeed, even if the program continues to be funded. Research on the program has had mixed findings as well, sparking questions around whether it is the Harlem Children Zone’s high-quality charter schools, its wrap-around approach to education, or both that makes the program a success. (If the answer is the high-quality charter schools, the comprehensive approach in the Promise Neighborhoods grant program may not be as cost-effective an investment.)

The implementation grantees will have between three and five years to create their promise neighborhoods, though information about the length of each grant is not yet available. The grantees can receive up to $30 million over the lifetime of the grants. This year’s grantees, locations, and funding levels are:

All but one of these projects—the Northside Achievement Zone in Minneapolis—won planning grants in fiscal year 2010. There were an additional 17 planning grantees in fiscal year 2010 that did not receive implementation grants this year.

Almost all of the implementation grantees seem poised to include early learning as central parts of their promise neighborhoods. Early Ed Watch will take a closer look at their plans as soon as the full grant applications are available.

The planning grants are smaller, 1-year grants of up to $500,000 that grantees use to plan out how they will bring together services in their area for a promise neighborhood. This year’s planning grantees, locations and funding levels are:

The full text of the applications are not yet available, but summaries are up on data.ed.gov.

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