Promise Academy

The Promise Academy is a “No Excuses” charter school in the Harlem Children’s Zone that is available to eligible New York City children selected via admittance lottery. The academy emphasizes academic achievement, has a culture of high behavioral and academic expectations, and offers intense tutoring in math and English Language Arts. It selectively hires teachers, uses value-added measures to evaluate them, and limits teachers’ administrative responsibilities. Teachers receive frequent feedback, and modify instruction based on student performance data. Students are in school for roughly twice as many hours as students in New York City’s traditional public schools. The Promise Academy provides free medical, dental, and mental health services to all students; additional social and community services are available to families living in the Harlem Children’s Zone ().

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Increased academic achievement

  • Improved student attendance

  • Increased college enrollment

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Reduced teen pregnancy

  • Reduced incarceration

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is some evidence that students offered Promise Academy entry have higher academic achievement than those who apply but do not win the admittance lottery (, ). However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

Students offered admission to the Promise Academy appear to increase mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA) achievement more than youth who do not win admission (, ). Academy students are absent from school less frequently () and appear more likely to enroll in college (). Girls offered admission appear less likely to become pregnant during their teenage years than non-admitted peers, and boys who attend the Promise Academy may be less likely to be incarcerated (). Increases in student achievement may lead to increased earnings, and a decreased likelihood of committing crimes or developing health disabilities later in life (). 

Effects appear to be driven by the Promise Academy charter school, not the additional social and community services available through the Harlem Children’s Zone (, Brookings-Croft 2010). Additional research is needed to determine whether the Promise Academy model can be effectively scaled ().

Impact on Disparities

Likely to decrease disparities

Implementation Examples

The Promise Academy is part of the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) in New York City (HCZ-PA). The US Department of Education funds Promise Neighborhoods, inspired by the HCZ, to support children from cradle to college to career with health, social, educational, and community services. Promise Neighborhoods are located throughout the nation (PNI). School model varies by neighborhood.

Implementation Resources

HCZ-PA - Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ). Promise Academy K-12 Charter Schools.

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

Dobbie 2011* - Dobbie W, Fryer RG. Are high-quality schools enough to increase achievement among the poor? Evidence from the Harlem Children’s Zone †. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics. 2011;3(July):158–87.

NBER-Dobbie 2013* - Dobbie W, Fryer Jr. RG. The medium-term impacts of high-achieving charter schools on non-test score outcomes. National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); 2013.

Yeh 2013* - Yeh SS. A re-analysis of the effects of KIPP and the Harlem promise academies. Teachers College Record. 2013;115(4):1-20.

Brookings-Croft 2010 - Croft M, Whitehurts GJ. The Harlem Children's Zone, Promise Neighborhoods, and the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education. Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution; 2010.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

HCZ-PA - Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ). Promise Academy K-12 Charter Schools.

PNI - Promise Neighborhoods Institute (PNI). Promise Neighborhoods Network Sites.

Date Last Updated

Feb 11, 2016