Will Harlem Children's Zone model work for Fairmount Park Elementary?
The Pinellas County School District and the city of St. Petersburg are bringing a nationally acclaimed school turnaround model to the Childs Park neighborhood and one of the district's newly F-rated elementary schools, Fairmount Park.
The Florida's Neighborhood of Promise Initiative in Childs Park, which is being kicked off this morning, is modeled after the Harlem Children's Zone, a New York City program that closely ties social services to school improvement efforts. Some researchers say that broader approach to helping struggling students has yielded "enormous" academic gains.
The Fairmount Park initiative involves the city, the district's Office of Strategic Partnerships and the Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County. It will focus on students in pre-K to second grade.
Among other assumptions, according to pamphlets being passed out this morning, initiative supporters believe "the basic infrastructure of highly distressed communities must be rebuilt" and "parents must be engaged, involved and empowered to ensure children's safety and family stability."
Childs Park is 85 percent African-American, and 67 percent of its children live only with their mother, according to Census Bureau figures cited by the city. At Fairmount Park Elementary, 94 percent of students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunches last year.
According to the latest FCAT results, 42 percent of its students were reading at grade level or above, down from 61 percent last year.