A nationally celebrated Harlem non-profit whose founder was held up as a powerful education reformer in the documentary "Waiting for Superman" was called into question Monday during a City Council hearing on a study that questioned its effectiveness.Two interesting points about For Profit Geoffrey Canada's HCZ:
Harlem Children's Zone, which is run by Geoffrey Canada, did about the same as other Harlem charter schools in terms of academic achievement from 2007 to 2009, according to a study released by The Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institute last year. The City Council held a hearing Monday to discuss its effectiveness.
The Zone funds and operates what founder Canada calls a "pipeline" of social services for low-income families in about a 100-block area. It spends an average of $5,500 per child, thanks to generous funding from corporations (Canada is featured in American Express ads). It also runs two charter schools.
Given HCZ's prominence in New York and President Obama's call for similar "Promise Neighborhoods" around the country, Brooklyn City Councilman Al Vann said he wanted to hold a hearing over concerns raised in the Brookings study.
There was an awkward moment when Bronx councilwoman Helen Foster asked how many staffers at the Harlem Children's Zone come from its local community. Shoemaker told her 50 percent of her staff is locally hired.
"I'll be very honest," Foster responded to the all-white panel. "When I walked in and looked at the room I thought maybe I misunderstood because Harlem Children's Zone, I thought maybe there would be someone talking to me who looked like the kids and the families that we're saving. And that is still most shocking to me. Because right away I then have to put down my guard of the crunchy, earthy white liberal that's going to come save us from ourselves, and 'Look what we've done.'"
Foster went on, choosing her words carefully, to say "it would be very interesting to have heard from someone that is black or Latino that either has or has not come out of the cycle of poverty talking about a program that I think, an operation, that I think is very important and has results."
First, given all the money that they've raised (including $20 million from Goldman Sachs) and given all the money they spend, their results are no better than other charter schools in the neighborhood.
Maybe For Profit Geoffrey isn't the genius he and his p.r. people and the shills in power say he is?
Second, it is interesting that the HCZ didn't have one person of color on the panel at the City Council hearing.
The HCZ says 50% of staff is locally hired.
But to do what?
Clearly not to do the kinds of things that get you on a panel to defend organization at a City Council hearing.