The Philadelphia Promise Neighborhood
Both Point Breeze and Grays Ferry share a rich history and many positive attributes. We also share an educational system and network of support services that are struggling to provide the kind of high-quality programs and outcomes that this community deserves and demands. As part of an ongoing effort by residents to better control their own destiny and introduce game-changing reforms within their community, a network of local stakeholders came together in 2009 to look comprehensively at education and related service delivery. Out of this effort came a successful application to the U.S. Department of Education’s Promise Neighborhoods initiative.
This federal program is a bold new initiative designed to break the cycle of generational poverty in communities like Point Breeze and Grays Ferry. Inspired by the success of the Harlem Children’s Zone, President Obama has made a personal commitment to alleviate poverty with comprehensive approaches like the Promise Neighborhoods initiative that support children from before birth through college graduation.
In 2010, a nationally competitive round of one-year planning grants was announced. Out of 339 applications submitted, the Universal proposal was one of just 21 awarded funding. All grantees are given up to one year and partial funding of between $400,000 and $500,000 to develop a comprehensive plan that addresses their most pressing neighborhood challenges. To bolster this planning effort and develop an implementable plan for improving educational and life-skills outcomes for children, youth and their families, the School District of Philadelphia, led by Dr. Arlene Ackerman, is making extraordinary commitments.
These commitments range from access to school and student performance data and their personnel to support the Work Groups tasked with developing the plan to co-chairing the advisory board whose role is to ensure coordination between vision, public policy and capital investments—financial and human—required to achieve the outcomes of the plan as it evolves.
Dr. Ackerman, who was recognized this past October as the top urban school leader by the Council of Great City Schools, will extend her “Imagine 2014” school reform plan to raise student achievement as part of our Promise Neighborhoods planning initiative.
The Promise Neighborhoods Initiative resembles the model and design for the Harlem Children’s Zone whose goals include:
• Improve educational and developmental outcomes of children in distressed communities;
• Ensure that children have access to a continuum of cradle-through-college-to-career solutions; and
• Enhance school, home and neighborhood conditions so they are more nurturing and supportive.
Utilizing data based on a number of defined indicators this effort seeks to:
• Qualify and quantify the comprehensive needs of these communities and how these issues are connected and inter-related;
• Examine and assess the current continuum of services including their quality and their delivery systems;
• Determine what strategies can be adopted to bolster the delivery of quality services; and
• Develop a strategy that will establish the capacity and sustainability needed to implement all aspects of the Plan.
The primary objective of this planning process is to secure investments – financial and otherwise – that will be used to enhance the education outcomes and impact on the ability of individuals and children to achieve sustainable life styles over time, including:
• Early childhood and pre-K education;
• Kindergarten to 12th grade education, college and beyond;
• Social services to support children, youth and their families; and
• Housing and economic development activities in the targeted neighborhoods