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Harlem Children's Zone

Help Harlem Children’s Zone with their Cradle to Career Research

Guest blogger, Betina Jean-Louis, Director of Evaluation at Harlem Children’s Zone, has an exciting research effort underway. She and Geoff Canada invite you to participate in their Cradle to Career Neighborhood Survey.  Read more about the Harlem Children’s Zone research effort and how you can be involved below:

We at Harlem Children’s Zone are seeking your assistance with a Cradle to Career Neighborhood Survey; the message below from Geoff Canada, the head of the agency, provides some more information about the effort.  We would appreciate two types of support: (1) taking 10-15 minutes as a practitioner who is involved in this kind of work to help us better understand your efforts for and in your communities and (2) forwarding this request for completion of the survey to practitioners in your networks far and wide.  The more we know about the work on the ground, the better we will be able to advocate for continuing support.

Please note:

  • We will NOT share community- or organization-specific data with anyone under any circumstances.
  • Survey responders will be able to indicate whether they wish to receive a copy of the forthcoming summary report.

We appreciate UNCA’s help in helping us to get this disseminated!  A message from Geoff with additional information about the survey follows.


Betina Jean-Louis, Ph.D.
Director of Evaluation
Harlem Children’s Zone


Dear Building Neighborhoods Blog ,

To get a clearer picture of what is going on in the field, the Harlem Children’s Zone is reaching out to groups like yours that are creating or have created cradle-to-career pipelines that support the education and success of poor children.  We would like you to complete a Cradle to Career Neighborhood Survey that can be found here.  Those of us who are proponents of this approach are often asked about these efforts.  We would love to be able to provide aggregate-level information such as the following:

  • The number and type of communities doing the work
  • The types of programs included
  • The scope of the efforts

We believe that the field can be better supported when stakeholders and advocates (such as the Harlem Children's Zone, the Promise Neighborhoods Institute at PolicyLink partner organizations, the funding community, and government agencies) are in a better position to address some very fundamental questions about your efforts.  By completing the survey, you will help us all to more accurately represent the magnitude of the work.

Your participation in this survey is voluntary and you may choose to skip any questions. All the information you provide will be confidential; your name or your organization’s name will not be included in any reports, and your responses will not be reported individually to anyone.  We simply want to understand what is happening across the country.

The survey should take 10-15 minutes to complete. We hope you will participate and help us make available the valuable information that will allow us all to know where innovative strategies are being used to improve poor children’s lives.

Ideally, this survey should be completed by the individual in your organization who knows the most about this work.  If you are not that individual, please take a moment to determine who would be the best respondent and forward this request to him or her.  The person completing the survey can follow this link.  We would appreciate completion of the survey by Friday, June 14th.

Thank you for your efforts on behalf of poor children and families.



PS- if the hyperlink above does not work, the survey can be found here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CradleToCareer

Obama’s 2014 Budget Pushes for 20 New “Promise Zones”

The White House released its FY2014 budget proposal on April 10, 2013. Although different parts of the proposed budget have been lauded or criticized by different sectors, one thing that stood out was the President’s staunch commitment to neighborhood revitalization in the wake of the Great Recession.

The existing Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI) integrated multiple place-based programs from multiple federal agencies in an attempt to bring coordinated change efforts to severely distressed communities and “tackle concentrated poverty.” Literature on NRI often references the Harlem Children’s Zone as a model practice of integrated, full-spectrum services helping to revitalize a lower-income community.

The budget proposal funds the creation of 20 new “Promise Zones” to be determined through a competitive application process. The proposed budget for the project is over $735 million, which is a significant expansion and more than double what was spent on NRI projects in 2012.

In the 2014 proposed budget, the White House goes on to describe these high need Promise Zones as, “high-poverty communities where the Federal Government will engage more directly with local leaders to break down barriers and help them access and coordinate the resources and expertise they need to create jobs, leverage private investment, increase economic activity, reduce violence, and improve educational opportunities.”

It is unclear exactly how the 20 new Promise Zones will be determined, or even what the final funding allocation will be. A New York Times article on a recent speech by President Obama states, “communities would be selected over the next several years, from urban and rural applicants that show persistent woes like high joblessness and crime rates, low rates of high school graduation and college attendance and health concerns among residents.”

Interested communities are encouraged to follow the grant announcements from the Department of Education’s Promise Neighborhoods program, the Department of Housing & Urban Development’s Choice Neighborhoods program, and the Department of Justice’s Byrne Justice Assistance program. Interested applicants can also look up 2012 grantees for each of these NRI programs at the links above for examples of successful projects. We will post more information on this blog as it becomes available.

Michelle Rhee's Journey to Reform Education

The Chancellor of Washington DC from 2007-2010, Michelle Rhee, was one of the most controversial education reformers in the United States in recent years. PBS Frontline aired a documentary of Rhee’s journey to reform DC public schools this month . It is viewable on the PBS Frontline website.

The documentary details Rhee’s career in education, including her time as a second grade teacher in Baltimore, her battles with teachers unions as chancellor of the Washington DC public-schools, the high expectations she bestowed upon teachers and principals in the district, and her recent efforts to reform education on a national level.

Geoffery Canada, Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Harlem Children’s Zone shares his perspective on education reform and the Michelle Rhee documentary in “School Reform Starts with Teacher Accountability.” He states:

"Rhee has the intellect and fearlessness that makes her one of a kind, and her experience in Washington demonstrated why those characteristics were necessary to change the system. Rhee is at the start of her career, not the end; she is going to grow in her effectiveness and impact. The entire solution does not rest in our classrooms, but for the sake of our children and our country’s future, we need to get public education right and that starts with getting the right staff in our schools."

Canada is an important leadership case study for local Promise Neighborhoods grantees and aspirants for his fundraising success, significant involvement in city politics, and managerial style.

HCZ Confronts Harlem Gangs

The Harlem Children's Zone has established a team of street monitors, called "Safety Knights," to protect students who are walking home from their afterschool programs from neighborhood gangs. The Knights have been deployed along a 10-block stretch, from 125th to 135th Streets, according to a news story in the New York Daily News.

"We've had an explosion of gang activity," Canada told the Daily News. "Kids, for their own protection, can't walk through certain areas, and it means that you're almost forced to join one of these neighborhood groups, which is a horrible thing."

The Knights are easy to spot between 125th and 135th Sts. They wear orange vests, communicate using walkie-talkies and sit bright lanterns on the sidewalk for when it gets dark outside.

When the Knights aren't standing at their assigned spots, they are working at HCZ programs as tutors, security guards or administrative staff members. Some are familiar faces for the kids who pass through the zone.

While gangs terrorize the streets, Canada doesn't deny some are right under his nose.

"There are kids in our school who are in gangs," he said, noting that some of the gangbangers are A students.

"What kind of crazy world do we live in when you get 95 on your geometry Regents, and yet you belong to a gang?" he said. "That's because all the kids feel like they have to."

Addressing the issue has not been easy.

The initiative was put to the test the day it started, when a group attempted to attack a student playing basketball in a park along the corridor.

More recently, two people were also shot along the corridor, just 20 minutes after the Safety Knights left.

But the Knights are continuing to protect children, refusing to lose the struggle over the streets.

"The day you don't come back," said Canada, "[the gangs] think they won."

HCZ Expands Work in New Jersey

HCZ is continuing to expand its work under contract with communities in New Jersey. This latest addition to the HCZ project list will be in Paterson, New Jersey and may include state funding.

According to a report yesterday in the North Jersey Record:

Governor Christie said Wednesday the state in “coming weeks and months” will oversee a partnership between Paterson and the Harlem Children’s Zone, a non-profit organization that surrounds needy children with a web of support programs that follow them from birth through college.

The pilot initiative would model the HCZ’s methods with coaching from the organization’s staff for a year, said HCZ’s communication’s director Marty Lipp.

“It’s really just to get them started,” Lipp said. “How people do it is essentially up to them. They don’t have to replicate everything we do.”

In September 2009, the organization forged a similar partnership with Newark and Camden. That state-funded contract totaled $24,000 for both cities. It’s unclear how much the Paterson project would cost. Leaders from all three cities completed a three-day workshop in Harlem, during which they were introduced to the organization’s various programs, such as Baby College — a parenting workshop.

Lipp said HCZ representatives will visit Paterson within weeks to assess the city’s social and educational resources, such as after-school programs and parenting classes.

“Governor Christie is taking great strides to reform educational models to make sure children are our very first priority,” Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone, said in a prepared statement. “I’m proud to stand with the governor and community leaders to take another step in that direction and give the community of Paterson the educational foundation to succeed.”

We have long said that Promise Neighborhoods aspirants need to look not just at federal funding, but also their states. Florida is one example (with efforts under way in Orlando, Jacksonville, Tampa and Miami, among other places). New Jersey is now another. Others should do the same.


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by Dr. Radut