Promise Neighborhoods: A Decade of Delivering the Promise So ALL of Our Kids Can Achieve

Promise Neighborhoods: A Decade of Delivering the Promise So ALL of Our Kids Can Achieve

by Director, Mission Promise Neighborhood Richard Raya

What is a Promise Neighborhood? Well, it’s a term best understood by breaking it down.

It’s a PROMISE to our kids that they will have equity of opportunity in education and career.

It’s a NEIGHBORHOOD comprising community-based organizations collaboratively providing wraparound services so our families are strengthened and students succeed academically.

Promise Neighborhoods leverage the success of the ambitious social-policy experiment, the Harlem Children’s Zone. Started as a one-block pilot in New York City back in the 1990s, that national model for breaking the cycle of poverty has scaled to now focus on a 97-block area of central Harlem, with 12,509 children and 12,498 adults served.

After a decade of solid results in low-income communities  — from rural Mississippi to urban Los Angeles — now is the time to scale the Promise Neighborhood education model across the land, as we concurrently eradicate poverty and create educational equity.

San Francisco’s Mission Promise Neighborhood
In 2012, the Mission District of San Francisco featured a quartet of underperforming schools. When that December a five-year Promise Neighborhood grant was received from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), it was clear that things were about to change. This was the genesis of the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN).

An expert MPN team was put together — featuring education professionals and leaders, plus a Family Success Coach for each school and at early learning centers — and a collaborative of 20+ partners was formed to provide wraparound services to strengthen our families so their kids could do better in school. That means affordable and stable housing, access to immigration and tenants’ rights, finding a medical home, getting a financial education … and so much more. We broke through silos and shared data along the way, holding  ourselves accountable to turning the curve on community indicators.

Our numbers speak for themselves: Over the initial six-plus years of our initiative, we used a shared case-management tool to connect 2,744 families with 5,590 different program referrals. MPN saw the following outcomes in our schools and with our partners:

  • Latino graduation rates increased from 63 percent to 88 percent.
  • African American graduation rates increased from 46 percent to 93 percent.
  • Ninety-four percent of elementary school families feel a sense belonging at their schools.
  • Rate at which students change schools mid-year decreased from 13.9 percent to 7.9 percent.
  • Eighty percent of all Latino 4-year-olds in the Mission are now enrolled in preschool.
  • Social-emotional development scores for 3-year-olds jumped from 24 percent to 82 percent.

A movement had been formed.

MPN 2.0
The challenging news was that despite the aforementioned results, 2018 could have been our final year.

Our grant from the Department of Education had sunsetted and MPN was operating on carryover funds. We did not know if we would be here in 2019, although we were sanguine, being among 12 Promise Neighborhoods across the country that were eligible for three available extension grants.

The exciting news is that our community was successful in winning a two-year, $6 million grant from the DOE, so we now have funding to take our initiative into 2020. Instead of downsizing, we doubled the number of schools and families with whom we are working in San Francisco’s Mission District and, on top of this, MPN lead agency MEDA is able to use this success to advocate for an increase in the number of Promise Neighborhoods in San Francisco … and across California.

MPN 2.0 has arrived. This iteration will create all-the-greater impact.

Scaling in California
Other Promise Neighborhoods across California have seen similar outcomes as MPN. Cognizant of the need to institutionalize this education initiative in federal, state and local governments, the five existing Promise Neighborhoods created the California Promise Neighborhood Network (CPNN).

In California, the results from the CPNN network informed the development of a statewide plan to end child poverty, with legislation (SB 686, the California Promise Neighborhoods Act of 2019) scheduled to be voted on this spring. This plan includes a recommendation for the investment by California into a total of 20 Promise Neighborhoods, at $5 million per neighborhood, complemented by increased spending on child care, CalWORKS and more. The plan estimates that the combination of these factors will result in annual benefits of more than $12 billion to state and local governments.  

The plan lays out the seven unique characteristics of Promise Neighborhoods:

  1. Cradle-to-college-to-career continuum to move families out of poverty.
  2. Place based to focus on high-need geographies.
  3. Collective impact: collaborate with partners to provide solutions at scale.
  4. Align funding streams to achieve shared outcomes.
  5. Results driven, with a focus on population-level results.
  6. Equity focused and explicit in addressing disparities.
  7. Community powered to address local needs and build on local strengths.

Data sharing, collaboration, accountable to results, good for the economy: Promise Neighborhoods are the embodiment of what we call “good government.”

One community is not waiting for the state to approve funding for Promise Neighborhoods; instead, it is taking the lead in using its current budget to create Promise Neighborhoods. San Diego County has approved $4 million for a pilot Promise Neighborhood based on the success of its existing Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood. If the pilot is also successful, the plan is to create even more Promise Neighborhoods throughout that county.

Closer to home — and based on the success of San Francisco’s Promise Neighborhood in the Mission District — we believe it is time for the City and County of San Francisco to begin asking itself if other local neighborhoods would benefit from a Promise Neighborhood, particularly during this time of widening income inequality and displacement of working-class families and people of color.

From School Board to Mayor, State Superintendent of Schools to Governor, all the way to the House of Representatives, we are seeing inspiring new leaders take the reins of government. As they highlight the need for a more just society, now is the time for bold equity initiatives based on proven models.

Let’s ensure that 2020 will put us on pace to finally end child poverty. Together.

 

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