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TC's Equity Campaign Teams with the Harlem Children's Zone

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Published: 3/1/2007

Evaluation of early childhood programs will shed new light on HCZ's comprehensive approach

TC's Campaign for Educational Equity is partnering with the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ) to evaluate the long-term effectiveness of HCZ's system of early and progressive interventions aimed at improving health and educational opportunities for preschool-aged children.

TC's Edmund W. Gordon, the Richard March Hoe Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Education at Teachers College and senior advisor to the Campaign, is helping HCZ develop a longitudinal evaluation of these interventions. HCZ has been described by The New York Times as "one of the most ambitious social-policy experiments of our time" for its effort to comprehensively support children and families across a 100-block area in Central Harlem.

The projected 10-year evaluation effort was initiated with seed money provided by the College Board and the Educational Testing Service, and funded for a planning year by The Oak Foundation. The long-term longitudinal study has been funded for an initial three-year period by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation.

"We want to improve our own understanding of the HCZ system of programs by engaging in a more explanatory, broader and longer-term investigation -- what works, for whom, what components are essential, how do the programs work together, how does the makeup of individuals and families affect outcomes -- and ensure that we develop a tracking system to keep individuals and families engaged in evaluating efforts over the long-term," said Geoffrey Canada, HCZ President and CEO.

More broadly, the evaluation is also expected to provide new insights about early childhood interventions in general.

"We in the field need new, comprehensive documentations and assessments that will help all stakeholders to determine what really works, right now," said Gordon. "At present, the debate continues to refer to older studies such as the Perry Preschool and Abecedarian interventions, which, while they have contributed enormously to advancing the field of early childhood education, included only a small number of participants, from which it is difficult to generalize. The result is that we still have many questions about how best to help low-income children and their families and improve outcomes for entire communities."

The HCZ programs that will be the initial focus of the evaluation are Baby College, a parenting program for guardians of zero-to-three-year-old children; Three Year Old Journey, Harlem Gems Head Start; Harlem Gems Universal Pre-Kindergarten; and Promise Academy I and II Charter Schools. The evaluation of the two programs will be conducted under the supervision of two sub-units of the Equity Campaign -- the Institute for Urban and Minority Education, led by Gordon, and the Assessment and Evaluation Research Initiative (AERI), co-directed by Gordon and Madhabi Chatterji, Associate Professor of Measurement, Evaluation, and Education.  AERI currently is evaluating a comprehensive early intervention and school readiness program called the Chemung County School Readiness Project, located in Elmira, New York, as well as conducting a research study in the East Ramapo, New York school district that uses a unique teacher-mediated assessment model aimed at reducing achievement gaps. 

"The purpose of AERI is to inform policy and practice, with a particular emphasis on educational excellence and equity," said Chatterji, who is Principal Investigator for the research on both the Chemung County and East Ramapo projects. "Working with the Harlem Children's Zone, which is among the most widely heralded social intervention efforts ongoing nationwide, provides us with a major opportunity to do just that."

Over the next several months, the evaluation effort at HCZ will focus on identifying key research questions and designing research methodology. The researchers will be aided by an advisory board that includes Ronald Ferguson of the Kennedy School at Harvard University; Michael Nettles and Jo Ann Rock of the Educational Testing Service; Ronald Taylor of Temple University; Norris Haynes of Southern Connecticut State University; Ronald Mincey of the Columbia University School of Social Work; Ernest Washington of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst; and three Teachers College members, Gordon, Denise Ross and Valerie Kinloch. Betina Jean-Louis, HCZ Director of Evaluation, Kimberly Hearn, Rachel Swaner and Bessie Wilkerson of the HCZ Research and Evaluation staff will also participate. Gordon, Haynes and Jean-Louis will  serve as Co-Principal Investigators of the study, which is slated to be fully underway by July 2007.

"Both the Harlem Children's Zone and The Campaign for Educational Equity are dedicated to the concept of comprehensive equity -- that is, to the proposition that inequities in the classroom cannot be rectified without addressing the broader range of issues that confront disadvantaged children and their families," said Michael Rebell, The Campaign's Executive Director. "Edmund Gordon was one of the first and best spokesmen for that idea, and Geoffrey Canada is perhaps its foremost practitioner today. With this collaboration, we have the opportunity to refine and enhance this approach to improve the lives of millions of Americans."