The Washington Post’s Michael Allison Chandler wrote an article recently blaming school choice in the nation’s capital as a reason that the U.S. Department of Education’s Promise Neighborhood Program is not working the way it was designed. She writes about the $25 million plan in Northeast D.C.:
“But the children of Kenilworth-Parkside aren’t all benefiting from the ‘Promise Neighborhood’ program. Less than a third of the 1,600 students who live there attend neighborhood schools; the rest are enrolled in 184 others, scattered across a city that has embraced school choice more than almost any other.”
Promise Neighborhoods were the brainchild of Harlem Children’s Zone’s founder Geoffrey Canada who created the first one in New York City. What is so interesting about this fact is that after he came up with the notion to provide family support to low income individuals he realized, as he explained to CityBridge co-founder Katherine Bradley, that he would not be able to make true progress in turning around the lives of kids until he opened a school. He then created the Promise Academy Charter.
The impact of school choice has had a major positive impact on the very students that Promise Neighborhoods are trying to help. As FOCUS discovered regarding the 2014 DC CAS results:
“The most interesting public charter school news is the widening gap between how well public charters and DCPS students who qualify for free or reduced price school lunch are doing. The gap is now over 15 percentage points in math and almost 13 percentage points in reading. To put this into perspective, if DCPS were able to match DC charters’ performance with economically disadvantaged students, about 2,000 additional poor children within the District would be able to read and do math on grade level.
Among African American students, charters now outperform DCPS by almost 17 percentage points in math and 12 percentage points in reading. Again, if DCPS were able to match charter performance, there would be about 2,000 additional African American students able to read and do math on grade level. For special education students the gap widened to almost 10 percentage points in math and over 5 percentage points in reading. Again, if DCPS were able to match charter performance, there would be about 250 additional special education students able to read and do math on grade level.”
If we would have to give up these gains because school choice complicates Promise Neighborhoods then guess which program should go?