Thursday, April 29, 2010

Promise Accountability

"But duplicating the model [Harlem Children's Zone] hinges on adapting it to suit the needs and capacities of the neighborhoods where it's being transplanted...Determining what is fertile ground is subjective, messy business."

Amanda M. Fairbanks, "A Promise Worth Keeping," GOOD, Spring 2010.

These concerns about replicating the HCZ seems like the same, wrongheaded approach, especially after listening to Geoffrey Canada again several days ago. He pointed out that he pulled pieces together that already existing rather than inventing new ones. His innovation was to demand high performance and children's progress and, when he didn't get it, he brought in new teachers, administrators, service providers.

So all this talk about "adapting" and "fertile ground" may miss the point of doing some very simple things well. Places that want to apply for Promise Neighborhoods should look in their cities to see if they have any of the pieces -- good schools, service providers, early childhood, and parenting programs. Then find someone who believes in the vision and give them the space, authority, resources, and time.

What community couldn't do this right now? Do you really need to apply for federal dollars for things you are already supposed to be doing? And, if a community makes it too complicated and nuanced -- this may be an indicator that they are missing the point.

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