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Another Study Gives an Edge to HCZ Students

CORRECTION:This blog post incorrectly states that the Harlem Success Academy is part of the Harlem Children's Zone. It is not. The Harlem Success Academy is part of the Success Charter Network, which is headed by Eva Moskowitz. Please go here for the correct post.

A study out this morning has found that students in Harlem Success Academy outperform those who apply to the same school but fail to win a seat.

[CORRECTION: Please see updated post here.] Harlem Success Academy is an elementary charter school embedded in the famous Harlem Children's Zone in New York City. Unless you've been living under a rock for the last five years, you'll know that HCZ is Geoffrey Canada's much-watched social experiment to carve out an impoverished section of the city and provide disadvantaged children with all the social services they need to get a shot at success. That includes preschool, health care, dental care, and after-school programs, in addition to academic add-ons, such as tutoring. A study published last year by Roland Fryer and his colleagues at Harvard University has already found that students in Promise Academy Middle School, which is the zone's charter middle school, score higher than non-lottery-winning peers on standardized tests. Read more about that earlier study in this EdWeek story and in a blog item I wrote back in March.

In this newest study, a different group of researchers turn their attention to elementary school. Researchers Jonathan Supovitz and Sam Rikoon of the University of Pennsylvania's graduate school of education studied students whose families applied to win a seat in the school's 2006-07 1st grade class, tracking them through the end of 3rd grade. In math, they found, the Success Academy 3rd graders performed an average of 48 scale-score points higher than counterparts who lost the lottery and ended up in regular New York City public schools. In reading, the Success Academy students' edge was 35 points.

Compared to demographically similar New York City public school 3rd graders who never applied to the charter school, the score differential favoring Success Academy students was even higher— 58 points.

It has to be noted that in this case, as with the middle school study, students have both a longer school day and a year than most traditional public schools—not to mention all those helpful social services. It does seem, though, that the findings suggest that President Obama's Promise Neighborhoods initiative, which attempts to employ the same sorts of tactics in urban and rural pockets of poverty across the country, could be on to something.

On the down side, what about those students who lose the lottery? In this case, researchers say, that was a lot of students. Seven thousand students applied for one of the 1,100 seats available at the start of the study in Harlem Success Academy schools in Harlem and the South Bronx.

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