Empowerment through Education
Education today presents numerous challenges across state, school district, and racial lines. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 attempted to narrow both class and race achievement gaps in the United States education system. However, the initiative does not address the systemic issues that result in inequitable education, including housing segregation, over-reliance on test scores, and the school-to-prison pipeline. The initiative faces challenges including inconsistencies in state assessment methods and inaccurate reporting. Infrastructure and funding also remain significant issues, with schools in predominantly Black districts having the least resources.
Educators continue taking radical approaches to better assess and respond to the needs of African American students. Education innovator Geoffrey Canada's privately funded nonprofit Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) in New York City serves as a model that combines education, culture and community. The program is a nexus of social and health services, education, and community programs for children in Harlem, where the majority live below the poverty line. The HCZ, centrally located in Harlem, occupies over one hundred blocks and includes the school, after-school care, adult education, and health and community buildings. Canada’s holistic approach to education has transformed the lives of over 100,000 children and 7,400 adults. The Harlem Children’s Zone is one of the inspirations for the Obama administration's "Promise Zones" initiative. Like the HCZ, this initiative used a holistic approach and connected schools, businesses, and community organizations to improve education for students in distressed communities. Innovative efforts to improve education in marginalized communities continue to make a difference.