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Rare attack on Harlem Children's Zone

These days, it is not a stretch to see New York City educator and social reformer Geoffrey Canada as the modern equivalent of Clara Barton, and his Harlem Children’s Zone as groundbreaking as the early Red Cross. A series of American Express television ads and two school documentaries, “The Lottery” and “Waiting for Superman,” offer Canada as the answer to poverty and ignorance in urban America, which he may prove to be.

President Obama has requested $210 million to create similar social safety net zones in cities across the country. That’s a lot of money, but how can anyone oppose prenatal care, parenting classes, fitness and nutrition programs for poor families, as well as the thriving charter schools Canada and his team have created?

So it is hard to believe what I am seeing -- a short paper from the prestigious Brookings Institution taking a shot at the Harlem Children’s Zone and its premier charter school, the Promise Academy.

Brookings scholar Grover (Russ) Whitehurst and research analyst Michelle Croft say the Promise Academy, backed by $100 million in privately raised funds for social, health and education services to families in the 100-block Harlem Children’s Zone, has not raised test scores as high as other New York City charters with similarly disadvantaged students who did not benefit from the zone's services.

The researchers wonder whether the expensive extras are necessary and if President Obama should rethink his plan to spend all that money cloning Canada’s project.

I think the Brookings critique, while quite valid as a warning against an early launch of the Obama proposal, is premature in judging the Harlem Children’s Zone and the six-year-old Promise Academy. Canada’s social services have not had enough time to show their worth. Canada’s school is being compared to charters with more experienced leaders whom he himself has asked for advice. The zone needs a few more years to show what it can do.

“The HCZ Promise Academy,” the Brookings report says, “scores 10 points above its predicted score on the state assessment. … Thus students attending the HCZ Promise Academy are doing impressively better than students of their backgrounds attending a typical public school in NYC. However, the charter school at the top of the list, which happens to be a KIPP [Knowledge Is Power Program] school, scores 30 points above its predicted score. There are 3 KIPP schools represented in the graph. All score higher than the HCZ Promise Academy. None provide or depend on community and social services to achieve their academic mission.”

The report then takes a big leap toward discrediting Canada’s idea at its core. “There is no compelling evidence that investments in parenting classes, health services, nutritional programs, and community improvement in general have appreciable effects on student achievement in schools in the U.S.,” it says.

Since there are no previous examples of anything like the Harlem Children’s Zone, it seems short-sighted to me to write it off this early. It would not have been wise, for instance, to conclude on the eve of Sputnik's success that artificial earth satellites would never work because U.S. rockets kept having launch mishaps.

At least one of the studies cited by Brookings to buttress its larger point is not a good example. Brookings says the federal Moving to Opportunity study, comparing school outcomes of students from poor families who did or did not receive vouchers to move to better neighborhoods, found no impact on student achievement. At least one analysis of that study indicates that the new neighborhoods were really not that much better, and the new schools just about as dismal as the old ones.

I have written often about the success of charter schools that do not depend on social safety nets like the Harlem Children’s Zone. I do not deny that the KIPP schools near the Promise Academy are good examples of what can be done focusing on teaching and time for instruction, not the neighborhoods. My last book, “Work Hard. Be Nice,” was a biography of Dave Levin, creator and supervisor of the three KIPP schools mentioned in the Brookings report, and his fellow KIPP national network co-founder Mike Feinberg. There is no one in Canada’s organization, or anywhere else for that matter, with experience and skills that match Levin’s and Feinberg’s in raising the achievement of inner city children. They have had more time to develop a grasp of how to do that.

At one point, author Paul Tough reveals in his book about Canada, “Whatever It Takes,” that Canada sought Levin’s advice on how to fix the Promise Academy after a shaky first year. But the school leaders on Canada’s team are developing those skills. They should be given more time to see if they can get up to Levin’s level.

I am also puzzled by Brookings’ insistence on measuring the worth of the Harlem Children’s Zone by test scores at the Promise Academy. I understand that many people, including Canada, have made the school the focus of the effort. But it seems to me that improved health, job success and parenting skills among the families in the zone would also be useful measures. "Promise is just one facet of what we do," said Harlem Children's Zone spokesman Marty Lipp. "The Zone Project serves over 8,000 children. The Promise Academy serves 1,200."

Whitehurst and Croft have done well raising a caution flag about spending big bucks right away on more social safety net zones. But we need to know much more before we decide on the worth and importance of what Geoffrey Canada has done.

Read Jay's blog every day, and follow all of The Post's Education coverage on Twitter, Facebook and our Education web page.

By Jay Mathews  | July 20, 2010; 12:00 AM ET
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags:  Brookings Institute criticizes HCZ results, Dave Levin, Geoffrey Canada, HCZ Promise Academy charter school not as successful as other charters that lack zone support, Harlem Children's Zone, KIPP, Russ Whitehurst  
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Comments

"but how can anyone oppose prenatal care, parenting classes, fitness and nutrition programs for poor families, as well as the thriving charter schools Canada and his team have created? "

Jesus, Jay. Perhaps because we haven't even proven that spending a fortune on these improve health outcomes, much less EDUCATIONAL outcomes? I mean, for starters.

I know what! Let's give every parent in the zone an SUV. How could anyone oppose giving poor parents an SUV so they could get to jobs and take their kids to school on time??? Except, alas, there's no evidence that giving parents an SUV would do anything but make SUV car dealers very happy.

As for the charter schools that Canada has created, are you seriously asking--in very nearly the same breath as you report that the school may not be improving kids' scores after all, in comparison with schools that aren't spending millions?

Remember, Jay, the goal is education. Not feel good liberal nostrums that may or may not work to make better parents. Better learners.

So are you going to demand we spend billions of dollars more every year and pretend it's for education? Or are you actually interested in, say, oh, gosh, maybe genuinely IMPROVING education?

Because if you're actually in improving results, then you don't refer to a report as an "ATTACK" but rather new information that will allow us to determine if demands for millions of dollars for each city are just that--demands for cash--with no relationship to improved educational outcomes?

But no. You're all "He's attacking the Harlem Children's Zone! How dare he suggest we don't spend millions? Who cares if it doesn't result in better educated children?"

Seriously. One of the looniest posts you've made.

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | July 20, 2010 12:42 AM | Report abuse

Oh, wait. I was so annoyed I left off the second half of my sentence here:

As for the charter schools that Canada has created, are you seriously asking--in very nearly the same breath as you report that the school may not be improving kids' scores after all, in comparison with schools that aren't spending millions--if it matters that the children aren't actually learning more?"

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | July 20, 2010 12:45 AM | Report abuse

Jay, Cal_Lanier has some remarkable (but sarcastic) panoramas that you need to seriously consider, particularly the title of your commentary: “Rare Attack on Harlem Children's Zone.”

I think Canada is doing profound work, in terms of wraparound services for poor students, parents, families, and the larger community. However, before we invest millions of dollars into his zone model, the model needs to produce longitudinal student achievement results, and those results need to be dramatic across the board (like KIPP).

Lastly, you, along with other well known reporters, seem to have forgotten why schools exist: to fundamentally develop students' cognitively, socially, intellectually, emotionally, physically, and morally. We can't meet all of these developmental needs through boring dialogues about high-stakes testing. Parents, community members, schools and educators need to start thinking differently about the future of urban pedagogy, otherwise, we're doomed—and blaming this all on teachers epitomizes, at best, unfairness.

Posted by: rasheeedj | July 20, 2010 6:04 AM | Report abuse

Have the kids whose parents participated in the baby program even reached the age where they are the ones being tested?

I agree that it is too soon to judge test scores. It is not too soon to say that HCZ is doing important work. There is more to school than just reading and writing and there is more to being a child than just going to school.

Posted by: ben83 | July 20, 2010 7:13 AM | Report abuse

Test scores don't mean much in isolation. Does the Promise Academy have more special ed, homeless or ELL students than KIPP? I'd want to know that. I'd also point out that KIPP is an expensive educational proprosition as well. All that additional seat time costs money.

Intuitively, I think it makes sense that our disadvantaged children/families should recieve a wide array of additional services in order to boost achievement. It is an issue of serious concern, however, that our government wants to toss substantial sums of money at a school-based program that doesn't achieve the outcomes it says it will.

Posted by: Nikki1231 | July 20, 2010 7:15 AM | Report abuse

I find it heartening that you are suggesting using measures beyond test scores to determine the success of the HCZ. I wish you were as willing to do so beyond this one instance.

Posted by: Jenny04 | July 20, 2010 7:40 AM | Report abuse

As an educator, I'll repeat what I've said before and what all the research says: socio-economic status/home environment is the greatest predictor of student achievement.

No question that HCZ and KIPP do well. That's not because the quality of instruction is all that much better. Longer school years, longer school days, many social services and requirement that parents commit is what makes them successful. If you want all that in our public schools, then you're going to have to fork up a lot more through taxes and pay teachers much more. I can tell you right now the general public isn't going to go for it. Schools are meant to educate children--not raise them and be a social welfare organization. A quality education is already there to be had in our public schools--even in DC. The problem in DC is the parents and home environment-not the teachers. As my father used to say, "You get out of it what you put into it."

Posted by: UrbanDweller | July 20, 2010 8:52 AM | Report abuse

This school is going to be successful in the long run. Obviously they are building a good foundation for success. What they have against them is that many of their students may move away and then they will not get "credit" for the gains.

I find the claims that helping the families socially doesn't help test scores to be absurd.

First of all, so what? Wouldn't we all agree that a kid who has no food or a debilitating illness is worse off than someone who isn't hungry or sick, no matter what the test scores?

Secondly, these changes take time. If the children in this community need all these services then the changes will not happen overnight. Sometimes everything will come together in fourth grade or later. That happens to all kids, not just Harlem kids.

KIPP might have a "recipe" that works for some kids. That doesn't mean it is the only way to go. Also, we don't yet know how KIPP kids would fare in college or long term. It sounds like they are used to a highly structured setting, that is good, but what happens in a highly unstructured setting like college?

I do like your suggestion that the experience of the KIPP instructors is important and that the Harlem school can learn from them. I think KIPP may want to learn something from the Harlem school as well.

I would also like to know how much testing preparation goes on at the Harlem school compared to the KIPP school It could be that the Harlem school is teaching the kids to love to read. That is priceless and can't be measured by test scores.

What I still find strange is the idea that a kid with untreated social problems with high test scores is going to be better off than someone who has no social problems.
Brookings Institue can argue that it is not the school's responsibility, that I understand, but to claim these things don't matter and everything is going to turn out ok, I doubt it.


Posted by: celestun100 | July 20, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Jay,

MCPS has a group called Linkages to Learning that provides counseling to parents and children who are low income. The Linkages staff work in some of the schools with high percentages of low income kids. They do wonderful work and not only help out the neediest kids, they enable the rest of the school to keep running smoothly, because without the counseling, some of these kids have been through so much, they would be acting out.

Posted by: celestun100 | July 20, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

"I am also puzzled by Brookings’ insistence on measuring the worth of the Harlem Children’s Zone by test scores at the Promise Academy."

What, Don't meaure worth with test scores?
What's next- no IMPACT?

Jay, will you pcik up the story on the Obama adminsitration suggesting cutting food stamps funding to pay for Race To The Top?

http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Issues/Budget-Impact/2010/07/16/David-Obey-I-Leave-More-Discontented-Than-I-Started.aspx

Posted by: edlharris | July 20, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Even the most favorably disposed evaluations of the best of Feinberg & Levin's KIPP schools do not anoint them with the magical powers you attribute to them here. The best of them are not as good and the least impressive not as bad as estimated. Regression, Jay, just like early season baseball stats.

I read "Work Hard, Be Nice." and wasn't impressed with the students' years lost while one your heroes figured out how to teach. I WAS impressed that they found and learned most of what they came to know from veteran expert teachers in public schools.
Paul Tough's book, for this blog entry, is much about failures and ed admins bewildered at test outcomes they obsess with. (Nothing better on that your former colleague Linda Perlstein's "Tested.") But, most impressive about Geoffrey Canada is his line (or schtick?): "I /we were failing and could not continue in that failure."
Yes, you are right to expect more than test score increases. But re: your previous blog topic concern, lets recognized that finding places in universities hungry for tuition $ can be just another trick and act of fraud, one which even DCPS mastered years ago.

Here's a goal and test Geoffrey Canada would endorse for HCZ: Look around at the commercial, legal, medical and political world in a city: Is the publc school system of the city reproduce the talent necessary, after training and finishing , to reproduce that human capital, without recrutiing and importing it from outside?

Posted by: incredulous | July 20, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

$210 million for a program that has not been proven to work? Heck, that's peanuts compared to the $4.3 billion Race to the Trough slush fund that pays for states to do stuff with far less evidence of effectiveness than HCZ.

Posted by: dz159 | July 20, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

I agree completely with Celestun100. As a citizen of this great country I want to see every child receive the basics: good nutrition, health care, social supports. I feel privileged to pay taxes to provide each child with these necessities, regardless of test scores. So far as I'm concerned there's no better investment than this. Will it make the children more comfortable? Will they be better able to concentrate at school? Good; that's more than enough to satisfy me.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | July 20, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Here is the problem with pushing more money to charter schools: charter schools have selective or limited enrollment. Therefore charter schools are not the best solution to PUBLIC education. We need solutions that incorporate all students living in a certain area. Ever heard of the movie "The Lottery." That's right. For all the greatness of HCZ, it can only educate a small percentage of the neighborhood. That's not what public education is about. If you believe public education is a civil right, then we need to find solutions which work for the masses. Nevertheless, HCZ is doing a great job with its hyper-focused strategy. Charters can be a great supplement to other public schools, but they are not the substitute. I do not have the solution, but more money needs to go into public schools that do NOT require a lottery. We cannot be selective about whom we educate.

Posted by: demondmoy | July 20, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

It's understandable how something like this could happen when education is all about test scores and hype.

How dare a Brookings Institute study contradict American Express funded ads and Hollywood?

What else to do when test scores don't measure up but cut the program?

Live by the scores, die by the scores! Expect more of this foolishness.

I can’t wait to hear Rhee’s rationalization about why the elementary scores went down in DCPS and to hear her explanation about why she should be given more time for her reforms to work, when teachers are being penalized right now if their students’ scores go down by getting fired or not getting a regular pay increase.

Posted by: efavorite | July 20, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

I am also puzzled by Brookings’ insistence on measuring the worth of the Harlem Children’s Zone by test scores at the Promise Academy.

Seriously, Jay? Test scores are the sole judge and drumbeat demonizing "failing" public schools. Charters should be judged the same as public - why do they get special dispensations? What hypocrisy.

Posted by: Care1 | July 20, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Great posts Celestun100 and Linda/RetiredTeacher.

Mr. Canada has addressed the actual root that plagues innercity neighborhood and schools. It took much longer then 6-7 years for Harlem neighborhoods to reach their present levels so for Brookings to give opinion on lack of progress in test scores is utter nonesense.

If quality of life, neighborhood and education is successfully being raised, how meaningful are test scores?

Have crime rates gone down in the area?

Are classroom environments safer and more productive?

Do parents have higher value and respect toward the importance of education?

Are the children becoming more motivated to become successful students?

If the answers are yes to all or most of the above, then how truly important are test scores (or focus on raising or comparing them) during this community environmental progression and positive transition?

Bravo to Mr. Canada, his colleagues, financial supporters, teachers and students. You're showing the world that even when poor, when provided nuturing and hands on support during your journey, you can travel the distance toward a productive life.

Posted by: TwoSons | July 20, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Recently a NYTimes article questioned the costs incurred by Green Dot Public Schools in their work-in-progress success of Locke High School in Los Angeles. This report is voicing similar concerns, but mostly it seems from the non-public contributions to this successful enterprise.

You can replicate the Harlem Enterprise Zone anywhere; what's not replicated easily is Geoffrey Canada and those dedicated teachers, etc. who work there. A municipal entity could NEVER replicate what Canada has done because the bureaucracy and politicizing would kill the efforts before the first shovel dug any dirt. SouthLA/Watts needs desperately a 'Watts Enterprise Zone,' but first there must be a Geoffery Canada willing to grow one organically instead of LAUSD/City of Los Angeles trying to create one with so many cooks (County Board of Supervisors, City Council, Mayor, Hollywood, LAUSD, UTLA(unions), etc.) stirring the pot.

Posted by: pdfordiii | July 20, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Upon reading this Brookings report and pondering the wimpy support given to conclude that, "There is no compelling evidence that investments in parenting classes, health services, nutritional programs, and community improvement in general have appreciable effects on student achievement in schools in the U.S." I can only say shame, shame for stating such a conclusion. Furthermore, after reading one citation relating to the claim, the article to Pediatrics (nurse visitations) I really wonder why this article was cited at all as it is so limiting in the scope of assistance to families, and yet, still DID manage to reveal positive findings in relation to fewer early childhood injuries, fewer illnesses and deaths, and gains in cognitive abilities in the early years as well as math skills. So many factors can affect a child's academic performance that were not evaluated in this study, why did Brookings even mention this study in order to justify its false conclusions?

And, of course, there are numerous factors to consider for providing a healthy start in school. Proper prenatal care reduces plenty of the risks associated in poorer school performance such as low-birth weight and preterm birth. Facts.

HCZ does seem to be on the right track about childhood asthma and identifying and helping those children resulting in fewer sick days and missed days in school. It could go farther. Since indoor home combustion appliances are also a factor in asthma, the proper functioning of such and the flue systems thereof are concerning. Not much can be done about exposure to traffic exhaust other than adequate nutrition (especially Vitamin C and foods generally rich in antioxidants. I do wonder if they monitor compliance in following recommendations for asthma control in the home, including proper cleaning of the dehumidifiers provided by HCZ. Also, HCZ provides some needed help to families about lead in the environment.

Brookings should have used better research techniques in this report, including watching their use of absolutes, which really only shows their bias.

Posted by: shadwell1 | July 20, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

It would be nice to actually know what this program does. The website does not offer much information.

Contrary to popular misconception not all individuals in a poverty area are the same. Before we used the terms low income and working class which more clearly showed that there were differences of the individuals in these neighborhoods.

"how can anyone oppose prenatal care, parenting classes, fitness and nutrition programs for poor families?"

Well if these programs are expensive and are only serving few in the neighborhood I can oppose them.

I see no mention of child care centers that working class parents would want.

What exactly is a fitness and nutrition programs for a neighborhood?

In my day it was free lunch programs and an attempt to provide recreational facilities in a neighborhood. You did not even have to be poor to need a free lunch since in cases of both parents working you had very young latch key children.

Prenatal care and parenting classes are expensive.

It is easy to make claims without providing much information. From the website the organization appears to be a school system that offers some social services.

This is ineffective and it would be better to have a separate organization providing social services where dollars are spent to provide the most good.

Poverty neighborhoods need child care centers for every child. These child centers need to make up for some of the neglect of parents. Some of this neglect is simply the result of working many hours at low paying jobs.

Every public school in these neighborhoods should offer after school programs for all young children. Working parents do not get home at 3 pm. After school programs should include snacks and recreational programs and not simply a study hall.

The focus needs to be on providing the greatest benefit to the most children in the neighborhood and avoiding expensive programs that may be commendable but only serve a few.

And the government should be opening health clinics in these neighborhoods. This actually was the case one time in America for cities. These centers provided vaccinations and other services.

We have enough reports of these supposedly wonder workers.

We need Federal and local government programs that are effective. One time in America there were these programs and we need to bring them back.

But then I am a old school liberal where you knew it was cost effective to lessen poverty since the costs of poverty to society were so high. Of course these old schools liberals knew that you could not eradicate poverty or make every child proficient since there was not an injection for poverty as there were injections for polio.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 20, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

This is perhaps the best ever series of postings to Jay's stuff. Congratulations and thanks to all of you. Please keep it up!
It's too bad Jay doesn't give several of you most-regular ones space directly under his name like Valerie does to put to the wider public a more unbiased, real-world analysis of these issues.

Posted by: 1bnthrdntht | July 20, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Whitehurst had previously addressed the issue of quality of execution. In this study he just mentions social interventions that have failed. He didn’t mention his previous research that showed that the most effective preschool, early reading, and dropout programs had extremely high effects, but that curriculum reform had a much better cost benefit ratio. I was persuaded by Whitehurst’s conclusion was that “leaving curriculum reform off the table ... makes no sense.” But based on test scores in schools, Whitehurst argues that improving neighborhoods is not a part of education reform, and should be removed from the table.

I have no doubt that three “school-centric” KIPP schools, for instance, may produce significantly higher 8th grade test scores than the HCZ’s charter school. But is KIPP planning to scale up to serve all of Harlem and or entire communities in other inner cities?

Since Whitehurst’s study is based on state test scores, consider it in the context of yesterday’s report on score inflation in NY schools. When comparing 8th grade scores, remember students passing the math test had a one-in-three chance of scoring highly enough on the Regents. Then ask what that means in comparison to the value of graduating from high school or college, and ask how Whitehurst can make such sweeping statements without considering those numbers.

Whitehurst does not even measure the value-added of schools - not that that would address the above issue. Instead he calculates a “prediction equation” that takes into account demographics. When predicting the effect of demographics on a system as large as NYC’s, I’d feel confident in the projections. But how accurate are they if calculating the relative challenge faced by a handful of schools? I can’t conceive of that side of the equation being trustworty. And the reason, of course, is choice, and choice is even a bigger factor when discussing schools whose essense is choice.

Also when dealing with these smalls numbers. Maybe the schools that scored better than Canada’s school are just better schools, with either principals and/or teachers doing a better job? How the record of one school reflect on the entire concept of the Bolder Broader tradition? Maybe Canada just needs to unionize so he’ll have to listen more to the wisdom of teachers.

Regarding the equal attainment of HCZ residents and kids who transferred into the HCZ school, that cuts both ways. Whitehurst concludes “proximity to the community had no effect.” Well, that could be a triumphant statement also. The negative effects of growing up poor in Harlem disappeared. Kids from Harlem did just as well as kids with the power to choose the Promise Academy.
And worst still, his most inflammatory overstatements weren't footnoted, and literally speaking were questionable. That surprises me.

Posted by: johnt4853 | July 20, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

A different approach.

In the military you do not fire missiles everywhere on the basis that you might by probability theory hit the target that you want to destroy.

You target where you are going to use your resources where they will provide the best benefit.

This is exactly the opposite approach that the Federal government is taking in regard to the problems of Title 1 poverty public schools.

Supposedly these problem will be solved by an expensive program of testing and teacher evaluations for the entire nation.

No thought to determining where the problems are the greatest and using programs to attempt to use limited resources to make the largest difference in these areas.

Now we have had politicians for almost 10 years promising Americans a proficient child in every pot and the columnists with supposedly wonder stories of expensive programs without any evidence of the benefit that would be obtained.

No one bothers to ask why the Federal government with all the resources it has develop effective programs.

We actually used to have a country where individuals did not lose their ability to think once they took position in the Federal government.

Of course this was before the prevalence of computers and the Federal government actually sent out real people to determine whether money was spent wisely.

Please no more wonder stories while you continue in the political fantasy of a proficient child in every pot.

Mr. Mathews your article of today is not much better than your article of yesterday when you extolled the virtues of the data analysis of an expert when there were obvious mathematical and logical flaws in the data and analysis of the expert.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 20, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

For Mr. Mathews

"how can anyone oppose prenatal care, parenting classes, fitness and nutrition programs for poor families?"

How can any investor oppose an investment of high return and no risks?

Posted by: bsallamack | July 20, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

This group states, “There is no compelling evidence that investments in parenting classes, health services, nutritional programs, and community improvement in general have appreciable effects on student achievement in schools in the U.S.,”

This is such a bizarre statement. This is like saying "There is no evidence that if you eat you will be less hungry." In other words, what everyone knows is correct is wrong because there is hasn't been enough research done on it.

I heard the old education person, William Bennett, talking about how there has been research done that proves that the most important factor in student achievement is not class size, rather the quality of the teacher. My question is why are studies even asking these stupid questions? Of course if you want excellent schools the kids have good nutrition, etc., excellent teachers and low class sizes. Why do we even have "research" on this stuff?


Posted by: celestun100 | July 20, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

bsallamark,

You wrote:

In the military you do not fire missiles everywhere on the basis that you might by probability theory hit the target that you want to destroy.

That is the point. Concentrate social, family, community, and educational investments and see if we get more bang for the buck.

Also, Whitehurst implies that social investments have been wasted, and too many are. But instad of just considering 8th grade test scores, consider the effects of prenatal care, improved health and nutrition, perhaps lower untintended pregnanacy rates, and college-going.

But still, we'd might get results that are so much better if we focus and coordinate our efforts.

Posted by: johnt4853 | July 20, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Jay,
Another group that works with teens through MCPS is Identity. They counsel young people to live healthily (HIV education), to say no to drugs and to say no to gangs.

They came to a school I worked at and did a workshop for the teachers. It was not expensive, they just read some letters the students had written about their experiences. They also met on a weekly basis with the kids and taught mini lessons. They were such positive role models for those kids.

These letters really opened the eyes of the teachers. One teacher said "That Identity group with those letters was the most useful workshop I have had in my career."

The teachers were able to sympathize with students who had seemed turned off or foreign before. They were able to relate and the kids felt as if someone was listening, understood and cared about them.

Groups like this won't improve education alone, but are necessary for some teenagers who want to succeed but don't feel they fit in.

Posted by: celestun100 | July 20, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Schools are meant to educate children--not raise them and be a social welfare organization. A quality education is already there to be had in our public schools--even in DC. The problem in DC is the parents and home environment-not the teachers. As my father used to say, "You get out of it what you put into it."

Posted by: UrbanDweller
..................................
I agree that public schools should be mainly concerned with education.

In the same way there are problems with the DC Title 1 poverty public schools when the national tests of 2009 show a failure rate of 56 percent.

Contrary to the politicians all children are not the same and it is not the responsibility of teachers in class rooms to address all the problems of poverty.

Local government and the Federal government should develop targeted programs to decrease poverty since the costs to society of poverty are so high.

Poverty can not be eradicated and not every child can be taught unless the Federal government is willing to spend extremely large amounts of money on the education of individual children.

The philosophy of public schools was to provide every child an opportunity for the benefits of education, and not a guarantee that every child would gain an education.

Title 1 poverty public schools need new ideas and change instead of a mentality that all teachers are lazy and incompetent.

It is difficult teaching in a Title 1 poverty public school where the levels of abilities and behavior are so diverse. Focusing on the lowest level in the class room only hinders the students that have a higher level of capabilities.

"Teach to the test" which is the national policy is simply focusing on the lowest level and lowering standards to the least common denominators. It hinders many students who might be able to obtain the benefits of education.

There should be Federal government programs for poverty programs in places like DC as there were in the past. But in the past the Federal government monitored these programs with inspectors and did not simply provide money. There is no sense in Federal government programs where there are not inspectors to monitor the use of public funds.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 20, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Maybe we should be looking at effective programs like Linkages to Learning and Identity and other effective groups and coordinating those with schools that have high risk groups. MCPS has done a fairly good job of getting these groups in to help. I know Montgomery County is considered wealthy, but some sections are not wealthy at all. MCPS generally has had some success at closing the gap, why not look at how they use these groups that target social problems to help kids. For example, Identity always empahsized that the kids should put effort into homework and pay attention in class and even helped work out contracts with some troubled kids and their teachers. I know this sounds like a commercial for Identity, but I saw them in action and was amazed at what they did for some very disgruntled, unmotivated eighth graders.

Posted by: celestun100 | July 20, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

I agree with 1bnthrdntht. These are excellent posts.
My sentence with the words "how can anyone oppose..." was an attempt to describe the mindset that might have kept people from criticizing HCZ. It wasn't my personal view.

For Jenny04---If you will read back in this blog the last few months you will find me bubbling over with posts and admiration for ways to measure achievement that don't include test scores. I have always felt that way, but am finding more stuff to write about that offers some hope of a change.

incredulous---you make another good point, but I want to emphasis I have never said the KIPP founders have magical powers. I wrote the book about them to demonstrate the opposite---that what they achieved took a lot of hard work and much pain. And in this latest post I didn't mention magic either. I talked about their experience and skill in raising the achievement of low income kids, and how their only advantage over the HCZ Promise Academy people is that they have had a lot more time (they started KIPP a decade before the Promise Academy opened) to develop those skills and insights.

Posted by: jaymathews | July 20, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Jay,
Another group that works with teens through MCPS is Identity. They counsel young people to live healthily (HIV education), to say no to drugs and to say no to gangs.

They came to a school I worked at and did a workshop for the teachers. It was not expensive, they just read some letters the students had written about their experiences. They also met on a weekly basis with the kids and taught mini lessons. They were such positive role models for those kids.

Posted by: celestun100
..................................
It used to be that social services groups worked with public schools and that public schools were allowed to focus on education.

The public schools were seen as place for providing a building for after school programs of children where perhaps one teacher ran these programs.

Public schools could contact local public health agencies when needed.

If one looks at the Department of Education you would not find one idea or program that specifically deals with the problems of Title 1 poverty public schools.

No Child Left Behind was a failure and we need to stop policies that make politicians look like they are doing something when instead they are only making public education worse.

The New York Times had an article today on how public educational standards have been lowered.

We need programs by the Federal government tailored to the problems of Title 1 poverty public schools that will be monitored by inspectors, and not pie in sky expensive tests and computer systems for the entire country that will only have the effect of lowering the educational standard of public education in the entire nation.

Let the politicians start being honest and tell the American public that the government needs to spend money to lower poverty as this will lower the very high cost of poverty to society. Have the politicians ask Americans if they would rather spend money now or later have more crime and more prisons.

The old liberals who are now despised by everyone knew it was better to spend a dollar today on someone than later have to spend thousands of dollars to incarcerate that person in prison.

This would make more sense to Americans than the proficient child in every pot of the politicians.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 20, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

That is the point. Concentrate social, family, community, and educational investments and see if we get more bang for the buck.

Posted by: johnt4853
.....................................
This group states, “There is no compelling evidence that investments in parenting classes, health services, nutritional programs, and community improvement in general have appreciable effects on student achievement in schools in the U.S.,”

This is such a bizarre statement.

Posted by: celestun100
.....................................
No.

In regard to the Brooking report think in terms that they have seen no evidence so far in regard the limited amount of Federal money spent.

It would take massive amounts of Federal money spent to show a difference.

Now start thinking in terms that the Federal government has only limited resources.

Before my daughter was born we paid for very expensive and extensive pre natal care from doctors and nurses.

At one year old my daughter had excellent day care facilities until she entered public school. This was paid for by the large corporation where my wife worked.

Yes all of this was important but the reality is that the United States government does not have the enormous amount of money that would be required to provide this to everyone in poverty areas. Couple this with Americans who would be rightfully resentful of not being eligible to such benefits.

There is limited resources and you target programs for the Title 1 poverty public schools that make the most of those limited resources.

The policy should be to ignore expensive programs that only will be effective to a limited number of individuals.

The problem of the Title 1 poverty public schools are to save as many as you can since contrary to the politicians you can not save everyone.

That is life and no politicians with pie in the sky claims will change it.

You study the problem and then come up with the best cost effective method that you can afford to decrease poverty.

Maybe the answer low cost day care for working parents.

Maybe the answer is testing and separating children when they enter schools into classes based upon their skills and capabilities. I have already provide a method that would allow this in a very cost effective manner, and this would allow teachers to teach to the level of the class.

The use of public schools for children after school should be certainly used as this is inexpensive and can provide a great benefit.

Public schools during the summer should also be used when possible.

After school and summer use of public schools would only require the use of one teacher and teaching aids.

There are probably other ideas of effective programs that could be funded and inspected by the Federal government.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 20, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Rare attack on Harlem Children's Zone
Jay Mathews
...............................
Brookings Report
The Harlem Children’s Zone, Promise Neighborhoods, and the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education

These findings create a large question mark for the theory of action of the HCZ. If other charter schools generate outcomes that are superior to those of the HCZ and those charter schools are not embedded in broad neighborhood improvement programs, why should we think that a neighborhood approach is superior to a schools-only approach?

This is not to suggest that factors such as parental education and income, family structure, parental employment, exposure to crime, and child health are not related to student achievement.

Improving neighborhoods and communities is a desirable goal in its own right, but let’s not confuse it with education reform.
.................................

This is simply another example of Jay Mathews and his inability to present real coverage on the problems in public education in this country.

Mr. Mathews has to stop his deliberate distortion or at least inform readers that his job on the Washington Post is not to cover public education but is simply to provide a bogus column that challenges the reader to discover the falsehoods that are in his column.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 20, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Rare attack on Harlem Children's Zone
Jay Mathews

LAST PARAGRAPH OF JAY MATHEW COLUMN
Whitehurst and Croft have done well raising a caution flag about spending big bucks right away on more social safety net zones. But we need to know much more before we decide on the worth and importance of what Geoffrey Canada has done.
...................................
Brookings Report
Whitehurst and Croft

LAST PARAGRAPH OF REPORT
Improving neighborhoods and communities is a desirable goal in its own right, but let’s not confuse it with education reform.
...................................
Mr. Mathews would be graded a very low grade on his writing.

His writing is poor and gives the erroneous impression that the report is in opposed to spending large amounts of government money for safety nets for individuals.

Mr. Mathews would be advised of the importance of clarity in the last paragraph and that the last paragraph is the most important paragraph in the essay since it is a summation.

But this is Mr. Mathews and for all we know his poor writing is intentional and simply his method of expressing his opposition to government spending on safety nets for individuals.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 20, 2010 6:54 PM | Report abuse

Jay, I am soooooo relieved. I couldn't figure out how you had lost your mind!! I'm sorry I misread you.

"This is like saying "There is no evidence that if you eat you will be less hungry." "

This is exactly what it is is NOT like.

It's like saying "There is no evidence that if you eat good food you will be more likely to get married and have two kids."

Lots of things you might think are axiomatic aren't. There's plenty of evidence that East Asian kids with limited food and support have better than average academic outcomes, for example. A fair amount of data showing the same for white kids, too.

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | July 20, 2010 9:18 PM | Report abuse

Then, there's this creative graphic,

http://tiny.cc/8dudo

which is:

http://www.incongressional.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/salaries_of_educators_in_nyc_and_the_number_of_students_they_manage.jpg

Maybe we should reconsider the argument, if HCZ is only for 1100 children, and Geoffrey Canada has his board pay him $500k+ per year for leading it.

Posted by: incredulous | July 20, 2010 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Is it enough that the kids involved live more healthy lives and have resources typically denied kids in their situation? And that some adults in their community take responsibility for providing them a reasonable quality of life? That they are treated as worthwhile assets and humans and worthy of things other kids get without extraordinary efforts?

Maybe the "improved scores" promise is a con, used to attract resources to the community that can be provided to kids. But the real goal is less preparatory and more existential: that they live less painful and diminished lives today. Will that ensure their futures? Asking that is asking way too much, beyond knowing. But their lives today are less shameful to our society. How much is that worth? A lot to some folks, and nothing to others obviously.

Posted by: dsacken | July 21, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

it's a sneak attack, jay --
your colleague valerie has posted a vicious attack from that disreputable russo fellow on you and all that you believe in (or at least on all that you say in this post) on her wild and wooly education blog the answer sheet.

check it out here
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/guest-bloggers/what-better-to-spice-up.html

/russo

Posted by: alexanderrusso | July 21, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

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