Harlem Children's Zone charter schools

The Harlem Children's Zone program is often highly praised. Less publicized are the concerns which have been raised about some of the practices at its charter schools. Articles about those concerns will be posted here.

A nationally celebrated Harlem non-profit whose founder was held up as a powerful education reformer in the documentary "Waiting for Superman" was called into question Monday during a City Council hearing on a study that questioned its effectiveness.

Harlem Children's Zone, which is run by Geoffrey Canada, did about the same as other Harlem charter schools in terms of academic achievement from 2007 to 2009, according to a study released by The Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institute last year. The City Council held a hearing Monday to discuss its effectiveness.

The Zone funds and operates what founder Canada calls a "pipeline" of social services for low-income families in about a 100-block area. It spends an average of $5,500 per child, thanks to generous funding from corporations (Canada is featured in American Express ads). It also runs two charter schools.

Given HCZ's prominence in New York and President Obama's call for similar "Promise Neighborhoods" around the country, Brooklyn City Councilman Al Vann said he wanted to hold a hearing over concerns raised in the Brookings study...

The HCZ's Chief Operating Officer, Geoffrey Canada, didn't attend the hearing. But he has taken issue with the Brookings report — stating that it didn't include a long-term look at his participants.

Vann said he wanted to hold the hearing because he worries some congressional representatives may not believe efforts to replicate the Harlem Children's Zone deserve to be fully-funded. President Obama has requested $210 million…

There was an awkward moment when Bronx councilwoman Helen Foster asked how many staffers at the Harlem Children's Zone come from its local community. Shoemaker told her 50 percent of her staff is locally hired.

"I'll be very honest," Foster responded to the all-white panel. "When I walked in and looked at the room I thought maybe I misunderstood because Harlem Children's Zone, I thought maybe there would be someone talking to me who looked like the kids and the families that we're saving. And that is still most shocking to me. Because right away I then have to put down my guard of the crunchy, earthy white liberal that's going to come save us from ourselves, and 'Look what we've done.'"…
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Anonymous said...

I watched The Lottery and it shook my beliefs as a former union man to the core.

It's taken me a few years and "Waiting for Superman" and "The Lottery" but I've come to believe that unions are evil. Teachers are essentially murdering these students so they can keep their job doing nothing.


Kristin said...

I would encourage the above commentator, and anyone else interested in this issue for that matter, to also watch "The Inconvenient Truth About Waiting for Superman," a grassroots film produced by teachers, parents and children about the effects of charter school, testing and top-down mayoral control in their neighborhoods. Waiting for Superman was basically a very well-funded commercial for charter schools, offering only one perspective. Unionized teachers have the safety to advocate for students and stay in the profession longer because they are not burned out after a year or two, thereby honing their craft and becoming better educators. The people who made Waiting for Superman are interested in cheap, weak labor, not improving education for kids. If anyone cared about that, all of our public school would be funded the way Harlem Children's Zone is funded. Here is a link where you can obtain a free copy of "The Inconvenient Truth About Waiting for Superman." http://www.waitingforsupermantruth.org/?page_id=343

The Perimeter Primate said...

To Anonymous,

Those movies, like much other "information" about ed reform solutions, is anti-union propaganda with a capital P. Track the history of how it was generated, track the players who are involved, track how the ed data has been distorted, track the one-sided presentation, and especially track the funding.

The films you mentioned are pure propaganda made to manipulate emotions, not to present facts. They seem to have achieved their goal with you.

Anonymous said...

If anyone wished to get the real truth about the Zone, they need to interview those who no longer work there. No one has mentioned the high turn over rate at the Zone and the high staff dissatisfaction with the agency's policies. The ugly truth about this project is the "incentives" such as Disney and caribbean trips that are offered to the children if they do well on tests. This is bribary to be in a system that has the funds to bribe children into short term goals. The behavioral issues within the promise academy schools are astronomical and yes, you are correct, there is no proof that the wrap around services have increased parent participation or student performance. Speak to former Zone staffers and get the truth.

Anonymous said...

In regard to Anonymous' comment about speaking to former employees, he or she is absolutely right. I just left HCZ after seeing what a scam it truly is. I was unable to handle the high level of stress created by an extremely dysfunctional school culture. Teachers work their butts off but a majority of their time is spent dealing w/ major and constant behavior problems. The problems stem from a student body that has been conditioned to believe that they will get some sort of expensive prize for doing the basics of what is expected in school (i.e., class work, homework, projects), and they do not have to respect anyone who won't give them what they want.

There is zero focus on the climate of the school, and there is no discipline system that is effective. I believe the main reason for this is because the turnover is extremely high. The students cannot form long-lasting, trusting relationships with the adults because most of the adults leave for better jobs or to leave the work force for a while. It is a toxic environment to work in, so imagine being 12 or 13 in a toxic school environment.

For now I have written this anonymously, but I have plans to write more extensively on this matter. Having first-hand experience in working there, I believe that what is really happening is unethical and unfair to the teachers and school staff, and above all the students. The policies and practices of HCZ are not setting students up for success and they are not gaining the academic and social skills needed to get out of poverty. They are being shortchanged every day in spite of how hard the school staff is working. And this is due to the fact that the higher-ups are most concerned with maintaining the image that has been lauded time and again in the media.

The PR for Harlem Children's Zone is very tightly controlled, which is why no one really knows the truth about it. The bottom line is that money is not the answer to everything and the devaluation of the employees will continue to create an atmosphere where the employees feel the need to leave at any cost. When you cannot keep a consistent staff and the environment is so highly negative, the problems in the Zone will never change. The higher ups are not willing to reflect on themselves and their practices to see what the true problems are. Instead, they bash those who leave as unfit to work their. Unfortunately, they failed to pay me off as they have others in the past, so at some point I hope to expose the scam that is Promise Academy on a larger scale because the kids are the ones who get the short end of the stick in this deal.