Harlem Children's Zone

Harlem Children Zones was founded to improve performance of children among poor communities. It was assumed in the program that efforts by effective schools alone are insufficient to close up the achievement gap between the poor and the middle class. Therefore, it takes both effective, achievement oriented schools as well as strong social community services in order to improve educational of children in poverty stricken zones. Advocates for this ambitious program maintain that public investment on children in these communities creates an environment necessary for their development. This write up compare the different views expressed by two authors in their articles concerning this ambitious program by Geoffrey Canada.

Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) forms the major topics of discussion of the two articles; Are High-Quality Schools Enough to Increase Achievement among the Poor? Evidence from the Harlem Children’s Zone by Dobbie & Fryer and also Geoffrey Canada by the New York Time. HCZ was founded by Geoffrey Canada to address the challenges faced by poor children. Such problems include crime, housing, schools as well as asthma. He purposed to achieve this by initiating a “conveyor belt” of services begging from birth to the time the child reaches collage. The write-up compares and contrasts the two articles based on assumptions, arguments, agreement, and aspiration I get from the articles. This summary also outlines similarities and differences in stands taken by each author as well as strengths and weaknesses of each opinion in the articles.

While conducting their research, Dobbie & Fryer made several assumptions. First, they both assumed that there is correlation between environment and the interaction between cohort year and address of the students; whether they live within or without the Children’s zone. Their second assumption was that parents who are motivated to have their children enrolled in Promise Academy could do so regardless of whether they live in within or without the HCZ zone. This was so because it was assumed that all children were eligible for HCZ program regardless of their address (Dobbie & Fryer, 2010). The authors further made assumption while calculating the worthwhile outcome obtained by investing on each student in HCZ initiative. Here they assume that those who come from within the zone and does not benefit from the community services are likely to drop out of school.

On the other hand, New York Times made assumptions that the huge expense should have immediately reflected into good performance by students of Promise Academy. However, the assumption did not put into consideration the fact that the charter was new and had to put in place policies that would see the students perform well. The author also assumed that because the HCZ initiative was offering good community services, this should have translated into good performance even in public schools (The New York Time, 2010). On the contrary, this assumption did not consider that public school needed high quality education as well to enable them step up their performance.

However, there are a number of things I agree with from each article. For instance, I agree with Dobbie & Fryer who refutes the criticisms laid against HCZ initiative. They rightfully argued that that “No Excuses” charter schools does not invest in community services yet they produce results of similar magnitude to Promise Academy. Dobbie & Fryer further explained that though the success is not dramatic, some progress has been made by Promise Academy in improving performance in both math and ELA in elementary schools as well as math in middle schools.  I further agree with the authors of both the two articles on their argument that good performance is majorly driven by high quality schools but not community services. This is clearly shown by almost equal performance in Promise Academy and other Charter Schools.

I argue with the position taken by The New York Times which focuses more on the spending aspects and ascribes less to the success made by the initiative (The New York Times, 2012). The author is quick to point at the failures of which some are rather challenges that have been overcome with time. Moreover, the author seems to be focusing his argument more on the founder of PCR initiative, Geoffrey Canada, rather than the organization itself. It would have been reasonable for the author to pay some attention to the objectives of the PCZ initiative which is not only to improve performance of children from poor backgrounds, but also to improve the community’s living standards. On the other hand, I argue with the failure by Dobbie & Fryer to connect the reduction in Harlem’s Childhood Asthma crisis, which has substantially reduced absenteeism, to good academic performance (CDC, 2005). Even though the author appreciates that this initiative has helped provide a supportive environment to learn, the conclusion made is not convincing.

On the other hand, I aspire to the way Dobbie & Fryer effectively conducted their research in their bid to establish the impact of community services offered by HCZ initiative on educational outcomes. They objectively seek to answer the long standing debate on if it could be possible to do away with the achievement gap through schools alone or whether educators alone may not be able to overcome the several issues that poor children carry to school. Unlike the New York Times article which concentrated only on the founder of HCZ, this article appreciates the efforts that has been made by the HCZ initiative besides being scientific

The strength in the positions taken by Dobbie & Fryer is that they are informed and factual. The results and arguments they give are obtained from the research carried within and without HCZ. They also reviewed trusted and relevance reference materials. This makes the position assumed strong and more reliable to adopt amidst the raging debate about the efficiency of community services in improving student’s performance. Their findings remain focused on the objective of their study, and are keen to point out when and where the research methodology employed could not give them factual findings (Kumar, 2011). On the contrary, most arguments presented by The New York Times throughout the article remains weak as he appears to be subjective. Most of the comments seem to be more of attacks directed to the founder of HCZ. The author’s criticism on the financial expenditure by HCZ initiative seems to be selfish as he does not give credit to the gains made so far by the initiative (McLeste, 2011). However, New York Times takes a strong stand on its attempt to ensure that federation education funds are used in investments that yields little.

The authors of both the two articles seem to agree on the fact that expenditure made by HCZ initiative on both community and school investment is quite costly. They also agree that no agreement has been reached so far as to whether it will be prudent and justified to spend federal education funds to improve social services so as to promote students’ achievements in academics. However, the authors of the two articles differ while drawing their conclusions and recommendations on this matter. The New York Times concludes by casting doubts on the importance of the HCZ initiative and takes side with Grover J. Whitehurst who maintains that too little evidence is available to support the zone’s approach (Croft & Whitehurst, 2010). The writer seems to agree with Grover on the need for further studies to help obtain the evidence that links better social standards to academic excellence. On the other hand, Dobbie & Fryer conclude by giving credit to the HCZ initiative for the achievement they have made. Dobbie & Fryer further note that worthwhile investments such as this are bound to succeed. They conclude by recommending this program to be initiated in traditional public schools so long as the cost can be put on check to give the rest of the children access to high quality education.


Amidst the controversy on the debate on HCZ, it is universally accepted that good results in schools are driven by high quality schools together with community based investments. It is important to note that community services may not directly contribute to good academic performance; however they form part of the wider plan to stabilize Harlem. 

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