Responding to Harlem Children’s Zone founder Geoffrey Canada’s response to their study, Brookings researchers Russ Whitehurst and Michele Croft restate their original thesis: There’s no evidence that providing support services improves student achievement. Students at the zone’s Harlem Promise Academy I outscore similar public school students in the city, but are “middling” compared to similar charter students who didn’t receive the array of services provided in the zone.
Our issue is not with the HCZ as a philanthropically supported endeavor to improve the lives of children in Harlem, but with the use of the HCZ as evidence that investments in wraparound support services and neighborhood improvements are a cost effective approach to increasing academic achievement. In an era of stress on public budgets, we think there should be good evidence that an expensive new approach works before it is scaled up and widely implemented with taxpayer funds.
Canada complained the Brookings analysis did not include both charter schools in the zone and used data that underestimated poverty levels. Whitehurst and Croft recrunched the numbers using test scores from both schools and Canada’s poverty number: The two Harlem Promise Academy schools continue to be in the middle of the pack for Bronx and Manhattan charter schools serving disadvantaged students.
The competitition is tough: Harlem Success Academy (not in the zone) has very high test scores: Among those students who qualified to receive free or reduced-lunch, 88% of third graders passed reading and 98% passed math, while 88% of fourth graders passed reading and 93% passed math.