Promise Neighborhoods: The Promise and Politics of Community Capacity Building as Urban School Reform

Sonya Douglass Horsford, Carrie Sampson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


The purpose of this inquiry is to consider how the U.S. Department of Education’s Promise Neighborhoods (PNs) program can improve persistently low-achieving urban schools by making their “neighborhoods whole again” through community capacity building for education reform. As the “first federal initiative to put education at the center of comprehensive efforts to fight poverty in urban and rural areas,” we frame our inquiry according to PNs’ intent to build capacity in high-needs communities in ways that provide high-quality educational and systematic support for children and families. We begin with an overview of PN, followed by a discussion of community capacity for urban school reform. Next, using descriptive case study methods, we present the case of the Las Vegas Promise Neighborhood Initiative to illustrate the ways in which a low-capacity community in the American West engaged in community capacity building activities to improve selected urban schools, albeit unsuccessful in its ability to secure federal grant funds. We then deliver our analysis of this local initiative according to Chaskin’s framework for building community capacity and consider lessons learned and implications for similarly positioned low-capacity communities interested in community-based school reform.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)955-991
Number of pages37
JournalUrban Education
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 26 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • community capacity
  • promise neighborhoods
  • school reform
  • urban education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Urban Studies


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