Harlem Children’s Zone

The Harlem Children’s Zone in New York City represents a recent example of a comprehensive effort to support academic success and disrupt the cycle of poverty through wrap-around services. Serving a 100-block radius in Harlem, HCZ is a collaborative network of social services, health services, charter schools, and academic supports aimed at the entire life cycle, from cradle to college and beyond (Tough 2009). All resources are readily available in the local community to residents. Poverty prevention and intervention are dominant in HCZ early childhood programs. Residents, including teenage parents, can participate in parenting classes, prenatal care, and explore options for day care while parents go to school or work. Pre-K programs are offered to increase children’’s readiness to enter school on a strong academic footing. I n the evenings, on weekends, and during summer months, sSchools and local community centers are usedserve in the evenings, on weekends, and during summer months as places for academic enrichment for children and youth through education and arts programs. Adult education classes are also available through these community sites.

The wrap-around services are integrated into the Promise Academy Charter Schools, the K-12 academic program of the HCZ. The elementary and middle schools were startedopened in 2004, and the high school began in 2008 with its first freshmen class. The schools have a longer school day and longer year, and they offer students an large array of afterschool academic programs and enrichment activities for students. Students also receive healthy meals in school and medical services.

Information produced by the HCZ publicizes academic gains for students on state assessments. However, without outside evaluation from researchers, we do not have reliable and verifiable information on how Harlem students are fairing academically or how, if at all, their instructional program differs from more traditional approaches to teaching and learning. We do know that the HCZ did not see any improvement in student achievement until several years after launching the initiative, according to HCZ President and CEO Geoffrey Canada (Tough 2009).

Researchers need to assess the extent to which wrap-around initiatives such as the HCZ aredo, in fact, helping students succeed in school and beyond. We do know that the HCZ did not see any improvement in student achievement until several years after launching the initiative, according to HCZ President and CEO Geoffrey Canada (Tough 2009). Academic improvement is a challenging task, to be sure, but efforts to increase overall quality of life should not be dismissed because test scores are low. For students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, personalization across many life domains may indeed increase their chances of engagement in learning and success in school.

— From Personalization in Schools, by Susan Yonezawa, Larry McClure, and Makeba Jones

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