Assessing Harlem Children's Zone

Monday, February 08, 2010

The Harlem Children's Zone is often cited as a model for successful urban education. Helen Zelon, writer for City Limits magazine, discusses her recent article, which questions just how effective the project has been and if it can be replicated. And Paul Tough, author of Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America who writes frequently for the New York Times Magazine about education, looks at what's working and what isn't.


Paul Tough and Helen Zelon

Comments [29]

Josh from Tarrytown

New Evaluation Report:

“Are High-Quality Schools Enough to Close the Achievement Gap? Evidence from a Social Experiment in Harlem"

Mar. 30 2010 12:07 PM
Fran Donohue, PhD from Savannah

The essence of a Zone that will be the proverbial village it takes to raise a child --which is assuredly the metaphor G. Canada uses --is the ability of the effort to deeply involvesand indeed educate the parents.

If the effort does not have these kinds of bones, it will feed on money alone and this will not last, it never does. Enthusiasm wanes.

3 authors, myself included have taken paradigms from business, efforts to transform its own cultures. We have adapted and enhanced these Models which have their origins in such centers as Stanford, MIT, Harvard. We already know how to be better than we are. These paradigms are decades old and proven themselves.

This Course can be as effective with students, with parents, with churches as it has been in the business sector --with an entire zone --transforming these cultures so that, with good bones, every school can achieve its focus hope with all children, and enhance the quality and health of the family and community as well.

Take a look at this effort:

Mar. 08 2010 12:13 PM
Nekoro Gomes

Anyone interested in learning more about Helen Zelon's reporting on the Harlem Children's Zone, including information on where to find the issue on newsstands or order it online, can check out the newly-designed City Limits website, which will officially debut this evening. An advertisement previewing the new website will be available on the soon-to-be old later today.

Nekoro Gomes
Marketing Assistant
City Limits Magazine.

Feb. 08 2010 12:23 PM
Aron P. Goldman from Springfield, MA

It's not just the "maturity of the model" question. It's also money and scale. HCZ has $75 mil/yr to work with a small section of Harlem (14K residents). The White House is offering $10 mil for the whole country to replicate (albeit as planing money). I wrote about this risk here:

And I interviewed Paul Tough when he came to Springfield here [video]:

Aron Goldman, The Springfield Institute (

Feb. 08 2010 12:04 PM
uyr from

correction /24

CAN'T be modelled after Children's Zone!

Feb. 08 2010 11:44 AM
uyr from

Does Helen have kids? Nothing as heartbreaking as a disadvantaged kid w a bad family -- nothing as hopeful and exciting as helping one.

And her argument that Children's Zone is not "all that" was not exactly bolstered by her complaint that all schools shouldn't be modelled after Children's Zone!

Feb. 08 2010 11:42 AM

"This former teacher is terrifying"
I haven't listened to the entire program and it's possible that many sensible former teachers called in.
I had in mind the woman who has two grandchildren in Harlem (?) school now and who kept repeating "they care, they care."
Is it possible that the only thing they care about is forming the next generation of corporate zombies? How would she know?

Feb. 08 2010 11:41 AM
shelley from NYC

Why wait until a child is in high school?
Why train them to just get by?
The HCZ is starting at birth to end the cycle of poverty and to get the children out of poverty.
Why should people be satisfied with a low paying job when they can go beyond the minimum
Given the chance these children can go to college and acheive great things...

Feb. 08 2010 11:41 AM
Kim from Brookln

Why didn't Jeffry Canad. Open the promise academy as a neighborhood zone school, ratherthan a lottery school? By making it a lottery school, they exclude students from families that are most troubled--those whose parents do not even have the wherewithal to apply fo a slot.

Feb. 08 2010 11:41 AM
laura shapiro kramer from the CITY!

I am surprised that your guests have not mentioned the Childrens' Aid Society or the New York City Outward Bound Expeditionary Learning Schools.
EVERY SITUATION IS VERY DIFFERENT! What works in one school, neighborhood, community, geographic locale, will not work everywhere else.'
PLEASE look at what is going on in the NYCOBC Schools and CAS Schools.

Feb. 08 2010 11:39 AM
Ed from East Village

Dear City Limits writer:

All critiques of "programs" is always off limits. You will always be attacked by the people who live off the "programs".

Question: Why are the grandchildren of a former schoolteacher enrolled in the HCZ? Interesting.

Feb. 08 2010 11:38 AM
Aida Martinez from Staten Island

The family support in the Harlem Childrens Zone schools seems to mirror the HeadStart program. HeadStart has extensive parent support,and they monitor and attend to the childrens' needs as they arise. I believe that long term studies proved that what ever gains the students made were lost once they left the insular environment of Head Start.

Feb. 08 2010 11:38 AM
maria from bklyn


Why put down a program that is working, so far, just because other programs are not highlighted? PURE "HATERATION"!

Feb. 08 2010 11:36 AM
EM from Harlem

I agree wholeheartedly with the last caller. I too have a child at a Upper East side school and harlem children zone simply replicates these program positively.

Feb. 08 2010 11:35 AM
Virtue from Upper East Side

The fact is that the Harlem Children's Zone is a stunning example of community psychology research, and I do believe there is enough compelling data to replicate this 'experiment' in other cities. How can we know if its replicable if it is never attempted in another city? In science, it is not necessarily standard practice for other research groups (other cities in this example) to attempt to replicate early findings of a promising new treatment before the results of a 20 year longitudinal research study is finished.

Feb. 08 2010 11:34 AM
the truth!! from BKNY

We cannot go wrong supporting children with
alternative circumstances. We have to continue to empower children that come from situation where the parent is unwilling or perhaps unable to encourage and inspire their children.

Feb. 08 2010 11:31 AM
Paul from Manhattan

My comments is more from the ground level and observations of how HCZ operate in a public school system and not the HCZ academy. Harlem Children Zone are placed in several NYC public schools in Harlem. The Harlem Children Zone staff in public schools are made up of interns and they are placed in several classroom during the day to assist teachers. HCZ also provides after school programs. I support the HCZ model and the push to provide a matrix of interventions at the community level. However, I do have reservations on how some HCZ staff are not adequately trained to work with students with disruptive behaviors, support families with persistent financial hardship, and use effective interventions to help students become academically and socially successful. I have seen staff yell and berate kids that I find counter productive and sets a poor example on how to problem solve peer conflicts and increase self esteem. The children needs positive role models and an effective way of dealing with disruptive behaviors to help them be successful academically. HCZ model is well meaning, but too ambitious with not enough highly trained staff to work with at risk and gifted children stuck in the public school system.

Blanketing public schools with community resources will not help solve chronic problems in the schools. It is the quality that counts, not the quantity- HCZ's motto "Whatever it takes needs to be reframed as "The best effective programs"

Feb. 08 2010 11:30 AM

This former teacher is terrifying. There is no hope for this illiterate, totally brainwashed population, able to repeat only slogans and platitudes.

It's the end, America.

Feb. 08 2010 11:30 AM
WNYC Listener from NYC

Geoffrey Canada is a great leader, but he is an autocrat. Would love to know what an independent audit of the school uncovers.

Feb. 08 2010 11:25 AM
maria from bklyn

Why is everything the Obama administration being scrutinized?

Is this a form of prejudice? Is there a taught preconceived notion that people of color are not as capable?

Feb. 08 2010 11:24 AM
Catherine Allen from Westchester

Where is the link to Helen Zelon's article? I've checked City Limits's website, Google, etc. and I can't find it anywhere? Would be great if the Brian Lehrer folks could post the link. Thanks!

Feb. 08 2010 11:23 AM
Ashton from Chelsea, Manhattan

It seems to me that Obama's embracing and promoting this program represents the kind of HOPE his candidacy represented and inspired among his supporters. What is the alternative to NOT having such a program: More of whatever was occuring in the area before the program was conceived and launched? Doing nothing? If all indications so far are promising, why not take a bold step without waiting for data that will not come for years?

Feb. 08 2010 11:22 AM
maria from bklyn

Is this more "Anit-Obama" or is this a legitimate questioning of proposed policy? Where was the questioning of so many Bush policies?

The point the the administration is trying to make is that the current system is failing! We need to try something different. Is the Harlem Children Zone perfect? We do not know that yet. But, what is the harm in trying this program and other vital programs such as charter schools and arts and education programs?

Feb. 08 2010 11:21 AM
A woman from Inwood, ny

How can you possibly go wrong with continued support of children? What's the big mystery?

Feb. 08 2010 11:20 AM
Patricia Connelly from Brooklyn

It is my understanding that the HCZ schools have far few ELL students and special needs students then their peer traditional public schools. Also, the HCZ schools can keep class size small where, again, their peer traditional public schools cannot. Can your speakers address these issues?

Feb. 08 2010 11:20 AM
A. Listener

this woman is harshing my children's zone buzz!!!

Feb. 08 2010 11:17 AM
torsion from Brooklyn

Be sure to see this tremendously moving film about the charter school issue affecting four local families:

Opening May 7th. Incredible insight into the promise of education for all!

Feb. 08 2010 11:13 AM
small point? from

(20 years ago is 1990 not 1994)

Feb. 08 2010 11:10 AM

I have two kids, and they were both reading and writing at 6 years old. How is it that children get all the way through 12th grade, 18 years old, without being able to read and write? That's 11 years of being cheated out of an education - an education that was paid for. That's a huge amount of time, and a lot of people that have participated in passing that child up.

Feb. 08 2010 10:34 AM

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