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Promise Neighborhoods

Promise Neighborhoods Comments Submitted

Our friends at the Promise Neighborhoods Institute at PolicyLink have posted their comments to the U.S. Department of Education in response to the draft Notice of Proposed Priorities for FY 2011. We would love to see your comments, on or off the record. We will be posting our comments shortly.

The Department is expected to release a final notice within the next 60 days.

How to Evaluate Promise and Choice Neighborhoods

Robin Smith at the Urban Institute authored a brief earlier this month that explores the tricky task of evaluating comprehensive community change efforts, specifically Promise and Choice Neighborhoods.

Evaluating such efforts can be challenging for several reasons, including the varying levels of service delivered to different residents of the community, difficulty determining which results are due to which services, and the varying  program mix, which makes comparing one effort to another very difficult.

Smith recommends creating a high-quality performance measurement system that includes baseline information, the type and amount of program activities, and cost. Ideally evaluators should help design the database system. She also recommends a careful analysis of the initiative's interconnected parts to determine causality and effectiveness.

The full report, "How to Evaluate Promise and Choice Neighborhoods," can be found here.

Draft Promise Neighborhoods Guidance Published

The U.S. Department of Education today (March 10) published its draft grant priorities for Promise Neighborhoods implementation and planning grants for the coming year.

The proposal is not final, but provides insights into what the Department will be looking for. This "Notice of Proposed Priorities" was published here in today's Federal Register. The Department is seeking comment by April 11. A short, 2-page summary can be found here. The press release is here.

Plan B for Promise Neighborhoods Implementation Grants

As Congress continues to negotiate over federal funding levels for the current fiscal year, a little-noticed passage in the Obama administration's budget request for the next fiscal year provides significant insights into its plans for Promise Neighborhoods.

In its budget justification, assuming that Promise Neighborhoods was funded at $10 million in FY 2011, the Department of Education indicated that it would use this money to fund three 3-year implementation grants worth about $3 million each and no planning grants in FY 2011. In 2012, however, it indicated that it would fund another 16-19 implementation grants and 18-20 planning grants, assuming the program received its requested $150 million (a big assumption).

These funding levels are all hypothetical at the moment, so while the Department's plans provide insight into its thinking, they are far from finalized. The relevant language from pages G-17 and G-18 of the Department's budget justifications is below:

In fiscal year 2011, the Department expects to award a small number of 3-year implementation grants, with the possibility of extending them to 5 years. While the demand for grants will likely continue to far exceed the available funding, the Administration’s goal is to make significant investments in a small number of communities that are able to demonstrate their capacity to plan and implement comprehensive high-quality education reforms and family and community supports for all children and youth in an identified geographic region, improve academic outcomes, and sustain their efforts and partner commitments. The Secretary may give priority to applicants that propose to implement comprehensive local early learning programs and services, as part of the applicant’s cradle-through-college-to-career continuum. In FY 2012, the Department anticipates making implementation awards averaging $6-8 million. Though this amount would serve as only part of the annual funding needed to implement a Promise Neighborhood project, the Department believes that the Federal investment will help leverage additional financial support from non-Federal sources like philanthropies, private sources, and other governmental entities.

The proposed legislation would also authorize the Department to reserve up to 5 percent of the Promise Neighborhoods appropriation for national leadership activities, such as research, data collection, outreach, dissemination, technical assistance, including the development of and support for ―communities of practice, and peer review. The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) will fund a national evaluation of the Promise Neighborhoods program to commence in fiscal year 2012, with funding requested in the IES account. Funds for technical assistance activities would support communities of practice, the development of a web site that will include a data dashboard for data management and reporting, direct assistance and coaching for grantees, and annual project directors’ meetings.

In addition, the Department’s participation in the Neighborhood Revitalization Working Group (NRWG), part of the Domestic Policy Council’s broader urban affairs agenda, may provide grantees with an additional approach to technical assistance through the interagency technical assistance project (ITTAP). The NRWG is developing and executing the Administration’s place-based strategy1 for providing local communities with the tools they need to change neighborhoods of concentrated poverty into neighborhoods of opportunity. The NRWG is comprised of representatives from the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Justice, Treasury, and Education. The group will work jointly to fund integrated technical assistance to help high-need neighborhoods develop comprehensive, collaborative approaches to neighborhood revitalization.

Senate Bill Proposes $20 Million for Promise, $65 Million for Choice Neighborhoods

Senate Democrats today (March 4) unveiled details of their proposed counter-offer on the budget for the remainder of the current federal fiscal year. It includes $20 million for Promise Neighborhoods and $65 million for Choice Neighborhoods. The proposal is expected to be brought to the Senate floor next week.

As previously reported, the House bill (HR 1) would zero out Promise Neighborhoods. Besides Promise Neighborhoods, with the House controlled by Republicans and the Senate by Democrats, there are also other significant differences between the two chambers. Expect further negotiations in the days ahead.

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by Dr. Radut