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Northside Achievement Zone in Minneapolis

Leading into the planned announcement of the Northside Achievement Zone in Minneapolis on Saturday, May 30, Geoffrey Canada yesterday addressed an audience of 1,000 at the Minneapolis Convention Center about lessons from the Harlem Children's Zone. Two stories follow below.

Info about the Northside Achievement Zone (Minneapolis) can be found here:

Here is another article in Twin Cities Daily Planet
Press Release

Education Pioneer Tells Minnesotans to 'Take a Stand'

Leader of Harlem Children's Zone advises crowd at Minneapolis Foundation's 'Minnesota Meeting'

MINNEAPOLIS, May 28 /PRNewswire -- Minnesota must "take a stand" with its educational system in order to make it work for the state's children, nationally renowned education expert Geoffrey Canada, CEO of the Harlem Children's Zone, told an audience of 1,000 at The Minneapolis Foundation's Minnesota Meeting on May 27.

"We've all become apologists for the [educational] system," Canada said. He encouraged Minnesota educators and community leaders to accept no excuses - to do whatever it takes to help children emerge from schools ready to achieve in college, work and life.

Canada said he's learned that, "If you care about your children, you're going to have to save them yourselves. No one is coming in to rescue Minnesota's children. If you don't do it, it will not get done."

Since 1990, Canada has been the President and Chief Executive Officer for the Harlem Children's Zone in New York City. The project provides an interlocking network of social service, education and community-building programs to thousands of children and families in a 97-block area of Central Harlem.

He counted among the project's successes that 100 percent of students in its Harlem Gems pre-K program are ready for kindergarten. "Not 90, not 80, but 100 percent." Hundreds of Harlem Children Zone students are now receiving their college degrees. "If you want to transform a community, bring home college graduates," he said.

Canada laid out basic principles for the Harlem Children's Zone that he said apply to educational reform in Minnesota:

  • Begin early. Only by beginning with early childhood education and intervention can we keep students from falling behind so far, so fast that they'll never catch up. He said that nation has invested billions in a failed strategy: "Don't educate them early; lock them up later. We can't afford to do that anymore."
  • No one program idea is powerful enough to do the job. Create a continuity of best practices that help kids in school and in the community to help them to successfully achieve the next stage of progress, all the way through college. Canada pointed out a constant continuum of support is needed. His program believes that to tackle only one issue while everything else in a child's universe is crumbling is a failed strategy.
  • Parents have to be involved and engaged, especially for the most vulnerable children. Canada said he was unapologetic for programs in the Harlem Children's Zone that provided economic incentives for parents to get involved in school activities, saying the focus needs to be on what the children need. He said, "We have to build a science of how to get parents from the most vulnerable families involved" in their children's education.
  • Schools must be redesigned for success. He said, "You've got to invest in a longer school day and a longer school year" to help children keep pace with competition elsewhere. He said we need to hold teachers accountable but also "pay teachers like they're professionals." He also said the intensive repairs needed in the system can't be done "just as a job," but they require the dedication and extra effort of professional teachers.
  • Communities need to support young people in an atmosphere with clean parks and playgrounds and an absence of violence. And if kids are hungry, they aren't going to learn, according to Canada.
  • Evaluate and measure each and every step. He encouraged the crowd to get student testing data turned around fast enough to allow for meaningful intervention for struggling students.

Many of these principles are at the center of a local initiative being launched May 30th, the Northside Achievement Zone in Minneapolis.

Canada's passionate concern for children to make their lives safer and more successful was woven into his remarks, which concluded with an original poem entitled "Take a Stand." Poetry was the hook that kept Geoffrey Canada engaged in education while growing up in a poor and sometimes violent Bronx neighborhood. He said, "We don't know what will save a child. For some it will be music, for others it will be drawing. Our job is to provide a variety of real opportunities for kids to allow them to find the things that save them."

Canada said the educational system is in a state of crisis, but that long-term fixes must be made while treating the emergency. Many people in Minnesota are doing great work for children in pockets of achievement, but that the state must get these efforts connected in order to give all its children the opportunity they deserve.

Commenting about the resistance to change in Minnesota education, he said, "In the end, you cannot accept any excuses because if it was your child, there would be no excuses."

The crowd of more than 1,000 at the Minneapolis Convention Center was the largest in the 25-year history of Minnesota Meeting. The theme of "Working Together: Organizing our Communities to Support Student Success" was the third of three 2009 public affairs discussion events sponsored by The Minneapolis Foundation, focusing on ways to ensure all the state's students achieve at high levels - regardless of gender, ethnicity, or household income.

Minneapolis Foundation President and CEO Sandra Vargas pointed out that to ensure the success of all students and to provide them with meaningful opportunity, Minnesota needs more than strong schools. She said it will require all sectors of the community working together to support student success. She said the Foundation is preparing to announce a new strategic direction that will focus resources and collaboration on transforming education in the state.

"Let's hold ourselves accountable. There are no excuses for not helping our kids reach their full potential and have a brighter future," Vargas said.

Established in 1915, The Minneapolis Foundation is one of the nation's oldest and largest community foundations. It manages more than $500 million in assets, administers more than 1,000 charitable funds created by individuals, families, and businesses, and distributes more than $35 million in grants each year. The Foundation also works with others to improve the quality of life in the region and serves as a catalyst for dialogue and action on critical issues, such as through the Minnesota Meeting public affairs program. For more information, visit www.MinneapolisFoundation.org.

Media contact: Kristine Migely, The Minneapolis Foundation (612) 672-3877 kmigely@mplsfoundation.org


Charleston, SC Positions Itself for Promise Neighborhoods

Charleston County Schools Superintendent Nancy McGinley is trying to position Charleston to become one of the first cities selected for a new national initiative that would establish comprehensive systems of support programs for children in low-income areas. Communities can't apply for the planning grant yet, but McGinley has been working behind-the-scenes to ensure that Charleston would be a frontrunner for the money. She's talked with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey, and downtown and North Charleston ministers to gather support. She's pulled research on poverty and school readiness and drafted a preliminary proposal that targets downtown, North Charleston and possibly Hollywood-area schools.

Bill Stanfield is CEO of Metanoia, a community development corporation in North Charleston, and he was among the ministers McGinley met with about this proposal. Metanoia takes a similar holistic approach as the Harlem's Children Zone in working with the community. It's difficult to have a successful school in an unsuccessful community, and healthy communities make healthy children, he said. This is an opportunity to follow that philosophy and enhance what's already happening, such as increasing the number of sites and students who can participate in their summer school that emphasizes reading, he said. The tricky part will be creating projects that are sustainable, he said.

Full story

Update: School officials have identified a zone spanning a few neighborhoods that would include four elementary schools. This would reach a population of approximately 3,000 children from age 0-17. These areas were selected based on crime, education, and poverty statistics provided by the county. For more recent developments, see a recent report in Charleston’s Post and Courier.


Boston & Baltimore Efforts

The following two stories, both from the last month or two, describe efforts in Boston and Baltimore to lay the groundwork for their participation in Promise Neighborhoods. In Boston, City Year has organized a delegation of local nonprofits to visit the Harlem Children's Zone. In Baltimore, a delegation from the city's school system and mayor's office has done the same thing.

The common element is collaboration, particularly between local neighborhood-based nonprofits, school systems, and other local city officials, particularly the mayor's office. Have you thought about those collaborations in your community and how they could work? It is not too early to have those discussions.

Boston Globe: Leaders of Boston nonprofits hope to replicate New York's well-being zone

Baltimore City Paper: Baltimore Children's Zone?

Baltimore Update (October 30, 2009)

The web site Urbanite Magazine has just published a very good piece on the latest in Baltimore. An excerpt:

The city will be well represented this month at a conference hosted by the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York City on November 9 and 10. But thus far, Baltimore is offering anything but a united front. There are at least four Promise Neighborhood proposals in the works: The mayor’s office has been working on one in Park Heights; the nonprofit Living Classrooms is involved with another; and the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins are each pushing proposals as well.



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by Dr. Radut