The Harlem Miracle, a David Brooks column in the New York Times, praises a charter school that’s dramatically boosted low-income black and Hispanic students’ test scores. That shows schools can make big changes for children in poverty, Brooks writes. Of course, Promise Academy is part of the Harlem Children’s Zone, which provides a range of programs to help families, including prenatal care and parenting classes. But children who live in the zone but lost the lottery to attend the charter school didn’t show the same progress. “In math, Promise Academy eliminated the achievement gap between its black students and the city average for white students, Brooks writes.
Promise exemplifies “an emerging model for low-income students,” Brooks writes.
Over the past decade, dozens of charter and independent schools, like Promise Academy, have become no excuses schools. The basic theory is that middle-class kids enter adolescence with certain working models in their heads: what I can achieve; how to control impulses; how to work hard. Many kids from poorer, disorganized homes don’t have these internalized models. The schools create a disciplined, orderly and demanding counterculture to inculcate middle-class values.
It takes time to get left-behind students caught up.
Promise Academy students who are performing below grade level spent twice as much time in school as other students in New York City. Students who are performing at grade level spend 50 percent more time in school.
The middle school struggled in its first few years, writes Paul Tough in Whatever It Takes, the story of the Harlem Children’s Zone. Teacher turnover was high. Too many students were behavior problems. But as students moved from the elementary to the middle school, those problems were solved.
Update: On Gotham Schools, skoolboy calls Brooks gullible.