Harlem Children's Zone Research "Works" for Dept. of Education
When the media reports on research studies, the headlines are often flashy but the details are usually murkier. The U.S. Department of Education's What Works Clearinghouse "Quick Review" series is designed to take a closer look at such studies and determine if they actually live up to their claims—or those of the press.
In the latest Quick Review, there's promising news about a recent study from researchers at Harvard that shows achievement gains among Promise Academy middle school students in both English and math. The reviewers dryly state that the study is "consistent with evidence standards," which, according to Debra Viadero at Education Week's Inside School Research blog, "is as good as it gets in these sorts of clearinghouse reviews." The Promise Academy is part of the much-discussed Harlem Children's Zone, a combination of charter schools and wraparound services.
As we receive more evidence of the Zone's success, new efforts to replicate the project in other cities continue to sprout up. On March 31, the same day as Viadero's post, the Providence (RI) Journal reported on a plan to create a similar zone in Rhode Island's capital city, with hope for assistance from funding President Obama has set aside for replication of the Harlem initiative.
The thumbs-up from the What Works Clearinghouse—and the continued new efforts in need of funding—makes this a good time to revisit an insightful post from Alyson Klein last November on Education Week's Politics K–12 blog. In the post, titled "For Harlem Children's Zone, Love But Not Money", Klein points out:
I think it's pretty interesting that while the administration clearly supports programs like the Harlem Children's Zone, that's not where it's investing the big bucks. Obama slated the Promise Neighborhood Program for just $10 million in his fiscal year 2010 budget proposal.
By contrast, the Teacher Incentive Fund, which allocates grants to districts to create or bolster performance-pay programs, was slated for $517 million, a whopping $420 million increase over fiscal 2009. And that was on top of $200 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
It will be interesting to see if the Department of Education's own approval of research showing such promising achievement gains is met with additional funding for other programs, such as the fledgling one in Providence.