Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

Distributed January 23, 1995
Contact: Mark Nickel

The Annenberg Challenge to Chicago
Annenberg Challenge Recognizes Chicago School Reform With $49.2 Million Grant

CHICAGO -- The Annenberg Foundation today announced a five-year grant totaling $49.2 million to support Chicago school reform, calling Chicago reform "a major breakthrough from which the nation can learn." The grant, part of the half-billion-dollar Annenberg Challenge to the Nation to improve the nation's public schools, will be matched two-to-one by $100 million in local private and public dollars.

The Hon. Walter H. Annenberg, editor, publisher and former U.S. ambassador to Great Britain, designed the Annenberg Challenge to energize and support promising efforts at school reform across the country. President Bill Clinton announced this extraordinary half-billion-dollar gift at a White House ceremony Dec. 17, 1993.

Announcing one of the largest private gifts ever made in support of an urban public school reform initiative and the largest in Chicago's history, Ms. Wallis Annenberg, Vice President of the Annenberg Foundation, said, "This support will assist teachers, parents, neighbors, and first and foremost, children, in their long-term struggle for excellence. We are in total agreement with the direction of Chicago school reform. Our nation's schools will only be reinvigorated one at a time, through the commitment of each school's staff and the residents of each school's community."

"We believe in democracy," said Annenberg. "We are working together with you because Chicago is reinvigorating the grassroots democracy that is the key to our nation's survival."

The Annenberg Challenge will support networks of schools working in collaboration with external partners such as universities, nonprofit organizations or the Chicago Teacher's Union Quest Center to improve the quality of teaching and the quality of students' work and achievement. Schools that receive Annenberg funds may redirect some of their discretionary funds toward supporting the project's reform strategies.

Mayor Richard M. Daley and Gov. Jim Edgar joined a citywide gathering of children, parents, teachers, principals and school reform and civic leaders at Washington Irving Elementary School for the grant announcement. Irving is a neighborhood school on Chicago's West Side where most students come from low-income families. Irving has developed a nationally recognized schoolwide initiative to improve student writing, through which its students have made major progress toward meeting statewide writing standards. High-quality student writing covers the walls of the Irving School. "School-to-school self-help will be the focus of the networks our grant to you will support," said Ms. Annenberg. "Who is better qualified to help other teachers develop an excellent writing program than the teachers at Washington Irving?"

The initial phase of the Chicago Annenberg project will support about 10 networks, consisting of five to 10 schools working in collaboration with external partners, such as universities or nonprofit organizations, to improve the quality of teaching and the quality of students' work and achievement. Most of the money will support school-level strategies designed by individual schools. Two requirements for participating schools will be (1) to make more time available for teacher planning and professional development and (2) to create small learning communities where the students are well-known to their teachers.

A pro bono advisor to Ambassador Annenberg and the Annenberg Challenge, Brown University President Vartan Gregorian, cited a number of features of Chicago school reform that motivated the Annenberg Challenge grant to Chicago:

Gregorian cautioned that the Annenberg grant is not a solution to Chicago's deficit problem or a substitute for the discretionary funds that already flow to Chicago's schools. "We call this initiative a `challenge' because we are challenging Chicago's private and public sector to match our commitment and to increase their financial, personal, and moral support for Chicago's public schools. The Annenberg Foundation's money will go primarily to schools for the improvement of instruction."

The Chicago Annenberg proposal was developed through discussions among a broad-based coalition of local school council members, teachers, principals, school reform groups, union representatives and central office staff, convened by Anne Hallett of the Cross City Campaign for Urban School Reform, William Ayers of the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Warren Chapman of the Joyce Foundation. A nominating committee has been formed by the proposal's drafters to create a permanent 20-person Reform Collaborative to oversee the project. The initial networks of schools that are funded will be selected through a competitive proposal process, with specifics of the process developed by the Collaborative.

The public match can include new public dollars, as well as existing dollars and in-kind contributions that are specifically redirected to achieve the purposes of the Chicago Annenberg Project. "Despite the looming financial crisis," said Argie Johnson, general superintendent of schools, "we have some new dollars available next year for staff development, improving science, math and technology teaching, and other priorities that are the focus of the Chicago Annenberg Project. Since my approach to better teaching is totally in tune with the Chicago Annenberg Project and we have fully participated in the planning, we have no hesitation in directing these new funds to support the project's strategies."

"We hope that the state's leadership will take note of the major endorsement of Chicago's progress by the Annenberg Foundation when they consider our financial needs this spring," she said.

James Stukel, chancellor of the University of Illinois at Chicago, announced that the university would be among the first to contribute toward the public match by donating space in a university building to house the citywide resource center for the Annenberg Challenge.

Adele Simmons, president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, expressed confidence that the city's philanthropic community would meet the challenge of providing $50 million in matching funds over the next five years. "Foundations in Chicago, indeed throughout the nation, have recognized the importance of the school reform process in Chicago and have been firm in their support since the beginning. Foundation support for Chicago reform has increased dramatically since 1985 and currently exceeds $10 million per year. I am confident that this support will continue and more than meet the Annenberg Challenge in Chicago. The Donors Forum of Chicago will be the fiscal agent for the grant.

Chicago is one of three cities - including New York and Los Angeles - to have received a major Annenberg Challenge Grant since the Challenge was announced.