Brookings Responds to Criticism of Harlem Children's Zone Study

Posted by Nikhil Swaminathan

nullThe back-and-forth between the Brookings Institution and the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ) continues, in the wake of a report from the former that questioned the impact the latter had on student achievement.

After the Brooking's study was initially released—and education reporters stood gobsmacked that anything or anyone would dare speak anything less than reverentially about the HCZ—Geoffrey Canada, the man behind the HCZ, struck back. Canada characterized the study as "wrong-headed" and quibbled with its methodology, such as its inclusion of only test scores of its first charter school Promise Academy I (while ignoring the newer Promise Academy II). 

The researchers responded this week on the Brookings Institution's Up Front Blog, re-crunching the numbers, according to Canada's criticisms. The result: HCZ students still score in the middle percentiles of other charter schools in Manhattan and the Bronx with similar demographics.

The Brookings team writes:

Our issue is not with the HCZ as a philanthropically supported endeavor to improve the lives of children in Harlem, but with the use of the HCZ as evidence that investments in wraparound support services and neighborhood improvements are a cost effective approach to increasing academic achievement. In an era of stress on public budgets, we think there should be good evidence that an expensive new approach works before it is scaled up and widely implemented with taxpayer funds. Our findings and our view are that the HCZ does not provide that evidence. Our quarrel is not with the HCZ but with the evidence for the Obama administration’s request to Congress for $210 million to replicate the HCZ in 20 communities across the nation

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