The Jackson Triangle in the Bay Area city of Hayward is one of five recipients of a federal Promise Neighborhood grant to give students in the low-income area academic, lifestyle, and community support to succeed in school. California State University, East Bay is lead agency on the project, which will receive $25 million over the next five years.
Promise Neighborhoods are modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone, a groundbreaking program that runs charter schools, offers afterschool and preschool programs, and provides free parenting classes, health care, counseling, and access to social services to thousands of children and adults to help break the cycle of poverty through education.
The Hayward Promise Neighborhood is a partnership of about a dozen schools and agencies, including the city, the Hayward Unified School District, Cal State East Bay, Chabot College, the local regional occupation program, the Child Care Coordinating Council of Alameda County, and the county public health department.
“Sometimes in education there are these wonderful points of light, but a lot of times they’re siloed,” said Carolyn Nelson, dean of the College of Education and Allied Studies at Cal State East Bay and principal investigator for the project. “The whole idea of the Promise Neighborhood project is to, if you will, de-silo these wonderful projects and community resources so that they’re all coherently focused on the big picture of contributing to student achievement.”
The Jackson Triangle neighborhood doesn’t have many points of light right now. It’s been hard hit by the recession, forcing multiple families to share single-family housing; it doesn’t have many resources for residents; and it’s generally lacking in stability. The grant application to the federal government describes the area this way:
“A severely neglected community of low-income families, 37% immigrants, and most with a high school education or less. Inadequate public transit, unsafe parks, food insecurity, limited licensed child care, and redlining drive social inequities. JT schools are chronically underperforming and many JT students drop out of high school and college. Residents are disproportionately unemployed, most lack college degrees, and 61.5% spend more than 30% of their monthly income on housing.”
Focus on education
All the resources that will be brought to bear in the neighborhood are focused on one overriding goal: creating a continuum of services from cradle to career to make
sure that students are ready for kindergarten and everything that follows.
“One of the things that we noticed in doing our needs assessment is that a significant percentage of our kids don’t come in with the level of language that you expect when they enter kindergarten,” said Andrew Kevy, the project manager and coordinator of child welfare for the Hayward Unified School District. “It’s our intention to start early on and to build the early childhood education network and then move up the pathway to elementary, middle, and high school.”
Many of the strategies to improve the schools and student achievement were developed last year through a $500,000 planning grant that the Hayward group received from the federal government, and are laid out in a 21-page plan.
Although the Harlem Children’s Zone inspired the Obama Administration to launch the program, the Hayward plan differs in one significant way: it doesn’t include charter schools. With charter schools, not everyone gets to participate, said Cal State’s Nelson, but the Jackson Triangle is inclusive.
“We’re starting with a public school and we’re working within the public school; we’re not creating a lottery system like a charter school, and I think that’s a distinctive difference which I can really embrace,” said Nelson. “You don’t pick and choose, and I think that will make a significant contribution to show what it really takes to make students successful within a public school setting.”