$650 million “Investing in Innovation” education fund finalists

For some of you, Wednesday’s post about the Harlem Children’s Zone was sort of an education reform buzz kill. If you’re wondering, “What do we do now?,” here’s this: The US Dept. of Education just named the finalists for its $650 million Investing in Innovation (i3) fund–which dwarfs even the $210 million best case scenario for the Promise Neighborhood fund.

The finalists include the fairly well-regarded KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) charter school company, and the City of New York (public obviously, but also known for its market-based approaches to education). That’s already interesting because for those who consider charter schools to be a threat to public education, consider that there are several KIPP schools in NYC, and both proposals may be be funded.

  • KIPP wants $50 million for a national principal training program that they claim leads to “radically improved student achievement and attainment outcomes.”
  • NYC  wants $5 million for a very fancy sounding computer program that collects data on all students and uses a “state-of-the-art learning algorithm” (like Google!) to create individually customized and adaptive curricula called “playlists” (like Apple!).

Brookings: Harlem Children’s Zone charter schools “about average,” Obama’s Promise Neighborhood funds may be cut

Brookings released a report on July 20th showing that the Harlem Children’s Zone’s (HCZ) charter school, called The Promise Academy, performs no better than other NYC charter schools, and suggesting that the significant extra expense of wrap around social support services may not be worth it. (You can follow the back-and-forth that ensued between HCZ’s iconic head, Geoffrey Canada, and the report authors via this excellent summary from City Limits.) At the same time, Congress is considering cutting the Obama’s Administration’s Promise Neighborhood initiative (which is based on the HCZ model) from $210 million to $20 million. HCZ and its partner, PolicyLink, launched a campaign to save the funding.

About a year ago, an ad hoc group formed in Springfield and Holyoke to figure out how to apply the HCZ model in this region. Two delegations were sent to the HCZ conference, but in the end the group decided it was not prepared to submit a competitive proposal for Promise Neighborhood funding. You can see here that there were 339 applicants, including Boston, Lawrence, Worcester, Somerville, Fall River, Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport. Part of the reluctance to submit a proposal was that Geoff Canada has over $70 million to spend every year on a section of Harlem that is the size of a single neighborhood in Springfield. No one in Springfield has that kind of money, and a $210 million fund for the entire country is no substitute for HCZ’s incredible hedge fund/Wall Street funding base.

We have made these points about funding and inconclusive evidence for HCZ’s basic claims in previous posts. But questions about the value of HCZ’s holistic approach don’t sit well with us. We know for ourselves, and we hear from stakeholders in and outside the schools, that poverty and neighborhood instability are the best predictors of even narrowly defined academic performance (e.g., MCAS scores). To improve school performance, we need jobs, access to health care and healthy food, democratic participation, and a built environment that is conducive to healthy, happy families.

As a result of the state’s recent level 4 chronically underperforming school determinations (10 out of 35 are in Springfield), many different groups have a renewed interest in bold approaches. And the Springfield school department is legally obligated to make big changes. At The Springfield Institute, our job is to help a broad range of stakeholders organize, track leading edge research and policy analysis, and deploy bold and highly accountable approaches to help ensure that these efforts and financial resources yield results.

El Sol Latino – June 2010: Immigration and Education are big topics

El Sol Latino, June 2010

This month’s issue of El Sol Latino (ESL) features the backlash generated from the new Arizona immigration policy, which has been rejected by civil rights groups across the Nation. SB 1070 has won the Grand Canyon State a boycott from Los Angeles and other cities have considered similar measures, including Springfield.

The dangers of the new Arizona immigration policy, which directs police to determine the immigration status of a person “where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien”, are exemplified through a recent story presented by NBC in Chicago last week, and covered on the Huffington Post. The article spotlights Eduardo Caraballo, a Puerto Rican and US citizen who was detained for three days by federal officials on suspicion of residing in the US illegally, despite providing adequate identification. As Congressman Luis Gutierrez says in the interview “In Arizona, they want everybody to be able to prove they’re legally in the country. They want everybody to prove that they’re an American citizen. Here we had an American citizen, that the federal government – not state authorities – but the Federal government, with all their technology and all the information capacity they had… could not determine, for more than three days, his status as an American citizen. It’s very, very, very dangerous ground to tread.”

This edition of ESL also shares three recent studies related to the Latino immigrant community. The first, by the Pew Hispanic Center profiles the latest Hispanic Demography in the US, where Latino’s are accounted for by Nationality and insightful statistics are provided regarding their language, educational attainment, income level and regional dispersion. A second study, also by Pew finds that Hispanics in the US reach the lowest attainment of General Education Degrees (GED) amongst High School dropouts, when compared to Whites and Blacks. The last of these articles suggest that parenting practices amongst Latino communities plays a favorable role in their children’s success. This stems from a study by the American Psychological Association (APA) that found Latino children displayed skills “at levels equal to those of white non-Latino children, despite vast differences in family income between the groups”.

In news from the Caribbean, ESL includes Economic news from the Dominican Republic, and prominently summarizes the University of Puerto Rico student strike, which has had 10 of its 11 campuses paralyzed for 41 days after the University Governing Board undertook drastic measures which would increase the cost of higher education in the system.

Pick up a copy of El Sol Latino or access the latest version here.

El Sol Latino – May 2010: Arts, immigration, energy, education & more!


El Sol Latino, May 2010

This month’s issue of El Sol Latino features the Riverview Senior Dancers, a Springfield group that promotes culture and fitness through Bomba and Plena, two afro-Puerto Rican folkloric dances that get your groove going and blood pumping! It also highlights a new sustainability and green jobs initiative in Holyoke known as Energía, an effort to make multifamily and commercial buildings more energy efficient.

El Sol complements this edition by taking a close look at national and international topics: a piece on the recent Arizona immigration bill, an Op-Ed by Dr. Brian Rachmaciej on how national education policy should place more importance on parental involvement, and news from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

All that and more for May. You can have a great read by picking up a copy or clicking here to view online. Enjoy!

Yves Singletary’s vision for Springfield: literacy, community, and TENNIS

[I was recently invited to speak to the students in Anne Richmond’s community development seminar at Springfield College (syllabus here). There I met an inspiring young man named Yves Singletary. Yves has a vision for Springfield, and it is my privilege to be able to share it here.]

My name is Yves Singletary and I am a junior at Springfield College where I am studying Youth Development. While attending school in the Springfield area for the past two years, I have become interested in seeing what I could do to help. Looking to combine my passions for both tennis and helping people, I thought about starting a tennis program to help serve the inner city youth of Springfield. I have been around tennis for 8 years; most recently as an instructor at The Tennis Academy at Harvard, alongside the Harvard Men’s and Women’s tennis coaches. I am a graduate of the Tenacity program, which is a nonprofit organization that teaches tennis and literacy to inner city youth in Boston. I’ve had the opportunity to give back to the program by being a summer Site Leader and a volunteer on many different occasions. My experience with the organization has helped shape me in becoming the person I am today.

Growing up in the inner city of Boston, MA I understand the difficulties that come along with being an African American and getting ahead. Fortunately for me, I had a lot of supportive individuals who helped me to stay on track in order to get where I want to be. I would like to provide the youth of Springfield with the same supports and opportunities, to help better themselves and to help them reach their goals and dreams. In order to help this become a reality I believe there are three things to be focused on: Tennis, Education, and Community.

I would like to help integrate the game of tennis, so that poor children and children of color have access to this amazing sport.  Usually children of color are given the options of football, basketball, and baseball. I would like to be able to offer them the option to learn the game of tennis. Tennis is one of few sports that can be played for life; there are tennis leagues of many different ages and levels throughout the world which allow people to come together and participate in this great game. Springfield is also fortunate to have the space, with beautiful public courts throughout the city.

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