NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Harlem Children's Zone Brings Progress and Hope

March 13, 2013

Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ) is an educational and social services organization that is seeking to transform central Harlem by increasing educational opportunities for students and working to strengthen families. Its goal is to create a culture in which generations of students grow to build a strong community that alleviates poverty, high unemployment and low educational attainment. The HCZ is certainly having some success, but whether or not the model will work elsewhere remains to be seen, says Danielle Hanson, a U.S. Senate staffer.

  • HCZ began in 2002 after expanding on a previous truancy-prevention program and now extends more than 100 blocks in the heart of Harlem, serving more than 10,000 children and 13,000 adults.
  • The organization's services are structured to provide continued support and reinforcement from a child's birth until graduation from college and beyond.

The HCZ has been successful in improving the educational outcomes of Harlem's students and in providing the community with programs that improve the quality of life.

  • The Baby College offers a nine-week parenting class for expecting or new parents to endow them with the latest research and techniques on child development, early education, healthy living and discipline strategies.
  • Path to Promise Academies are preschool education that supports the network of charter schools established by the HCZ.
  • The Promise charter schools offer longer school days, healthy meals, medical and dental care, and extensive after-school programs.
  • For students not lucky enough to win the lottery for admission to a Promise academy, HCZ offers free school-day, after-school and summer programming.
  • Two college preparation programs are available to increase college awareness and readiness, and 95 percent of seniors in HCZ after-school programs were accepted into college.
  • HCZ also provides several community programs that help to organize tenant and block associations, provide financial and legal advice, and address pressing social issues like obesity and drug use.

Data from studies of HCZ shows that the organization is having a dramatic impact on the lives of children and families in Harlem. However, there are concerns that the program's success cannot be replicated in other cities. Other cities will have a different culture and different social factors. More research is needed on the effects of HCZ's social services, community building and education programs.

Source: Danielle Hanson, "Assessing the Harlem Children's Zone," Heritage Foundation, March 6, 2013.


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