Paul Tough

Writer & Speaker

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

David Brooks on HCZ

In Friday’s New York Times, an op-ed column by David Brooks on the Harlem Children’s Zone and on a new study of the Zone by Harvard economist Roland Fryer:

Fryer and his colleague Will Dobbie have just finished a rigorous assessment of the charter schools operated by the Harlem Children’s Zone. They compared students in these schools to students in New York City as a whole and to comparable students who entered the lottery to get into the Harlem Children’s Zone schools, but weren’t selected.

They found that the Harlem Children’s Zone schools produced “enormous” gains. …

To understand the culture in these schools, I’d recommend “Whatever It Takes,” a gripping account of Harlem Children’s Zone by my Times colleague Paul Tough, and “Sweating the Small Stuff,” a superb survey of these sorts of schools by David Whitman.

3 comments on “David Brooks on HCZ

  1. Misnterpreted says:

    Paul … could you comment on Brooks’s column. To read this, one might surmise that Geoffrey Canada’s focus has been on making his schools “inculcate middle-class values.” Seems like a rehash of all that Ruby Payne B.S. — teach those poor kids how to shake hands and look you in the eye. Etc.

    Brooks just casually dismisses the “health and psychological services.” I find the column reckless bordering on dangerous in that it dismisses the essential aim of Canada’s — that reforming a school means going beyond the schoolyard.

    Please, would love to hear your thoughts on it.

  2. Paul Tough says:

    I agree with David Brooks that “no excuses” schools have achieved amazing results without much if any outside social-service support, and I agree with him that the emphasis those schools place on character and behavior is a big part of their effectiveness. (That’s especially true with schools that start in middle school.) And Geoffrey Canada talks quite eloquently, in chapter four of my book, about the importance and the complexities of teaching “middle-class values” to kids in Harlem.

    I also think Brooks is right that the Promise Academy’s impressive results in middle-school math are as much a demonstration of the power of high-quality schooling as of the impact of the full conveyor-belt model, because the students who got those scores only arrived at the Promise Academy in 6th grade and did not receive HCZ’s full wraparound of cradle-to-college social services.

    Personally, though, I’m more excited by the achievements and the future prospects of the students in Promise Academy elementary school. They are, increasingly, experiencing a more comprehensive approach to their education, one that starts earlier, involves their parents more, and integrates other social services better. New York State’s ELA results came out last week, and the Promise Academy elementary school, especially the 3rd grade, had very impressive scores — more impressive, to me, than those of the middle school. My guess is that as those students progress, and as the pipeline connecting Baby College, Harlem Gems and Promise Academy is made more and more seamless, we will see still more impressive numbers coming out of the Harlem Children’s Zone.

  3. Gerald Bracey says:

    But the article on which Brooks’ rather dishonest column was based attributes virtually everything to the school. I think and hope you’re right. But, as Aaron Pallas pointed out, the eighth grade results for the NY tests were not seen in other year or on ELA nor were they even close to being seen on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills.

    Still, I going to post a paean to Canada by Dick Gibboney and Bruce Smith at (where I have been regularly skewering the Obama/Duncan duo) because I think Canada’s “model” is the way to go.

    Jerry Bracey

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