Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

Distributed January 31, 1995
Contact: Mark Nickel

Annenberg Challenge gives $50 million to Philadelphia school reform

PHILADELPHIA -- The effort to reform the public school system in Philadelphia today received $50 million from the Annenberg Challenge, the half-billion-dollar gift to American public education announced in December 1993.

The citywide systemic reform effort in Philadelphia is called "Children Achieving," a plan formulated by David W. Hornbeck, superintendent of schools, to create schools that meet the needs of current urban students and society. Hornbeck developed the plan with the support of a broad cross-section of Philadelphia groups interested in school reform.

"No city with any significant number and diversity of students has succeeded in having a large proportion of its young people achieve at high levels, Hornbeck said. "Until that occurs, all else in school reform in this country is prelude. The first city to do this job successfully can be Philadelphia."

"Mrs. Annenberg and I have great hopes for the successful completion of this project," said the Hon. Walter H. Annenberg, editor, publisher and former U.S. ambassador to Great Britain, who designed the Annenberg Challenge to energize and support promising efforts at school reform across the country. "We hope that the grant will galvinize a strong, successful campaign throughout the entire Philadelphia community to save and improve its public educational system."

Announcement of the Challenge to Philadelphia was made by the ambassador's daughter, Wallis Annenberg, who is vice president of the Annenberg Foundation.

The Annenberg Challenge requires that matching funds be raised from other individuals, corporations and foundations. Work is under way in Philadelphia to secure matching grants from private donations and public funds earmarked for school reforms. The Pew Charitable Trusts and other local funders have a long history of support for reform in Philadelphia and have been consulted in the development of this initiative.

The use of the grant funds - to be matched by $50 million in private grants and $50 million in public grants - will be governed by Greater Philadelphia First (GPF) through its Philadelphia Public School/Business Partnership for Reform. GPF is an association of business chief executive officers from 31 of the Philadelphia region's larger corporations intent on advancing the interests of the community.

Philadelphia is the fourth major metropolitan area to receive funds. New York received an award of up to $50 million last September; Los Angeles announced its $53-million grant in December; and Chicago announced its $49.2-million grant Jan. 23. In addition, portions of the Annenberg Challenge have been given to national education reform efforts: The New American Schools Development Corp. has received $50 million, the Annenberg Institute for School Reform based at Brown University has received $50 million, and $15 million will be given to the Education Commission of the States early this year.

The major portion of the Annenberg Challenge supports teachers, pupils, schools and school systems throughout the country that are making earnest and well-designed efforts to change the way children are educated. Annenberg has asked Brown University President Vartan Gregorian, a long-time friend, to serve as an advisor to himself and to the Annenberg Foundation and to coordinate the planning process stimulated by the Challenge. Gregorian has agreed to serve in that capacity pro bono.

At the heart of Children Achieving will be the creation of small "communities of learners" throughout Philadelphia. These communities will be the foundation of a new organization where school-based decisions are made by teachers, students, parents, community members and the principal working together. These schools will be grouped into learning networks and clusters. The central administration will be restructured to ensure accountability and equity and to provide customer-focused support for instructional, information management and administrative services.

"The belief in the value of small learning communities is amply supported in the literature and in the experience of many school systems, including Philadelphia," Gregorian said. "But it is also important to connect schools to each other - as Philadelphia has done - to provide for a `learning continuum' from Kintergarten through 12th grade."

The Annenberg Challenge insists that the professional, political, labor and business leadership in the regions submitting proposals commit to the substantial financial, political and moral support needed to create a policy environment that clears the way for the redesign of its schools.

It also expects that each school, in collaboration with its immediate community, shape its own program guided by four fundamental ideas:

The gift comes through the Annenberg Foundation, the successor corporation to the Annenberg School at Radnor, Pa., established in 1958 by Annenberg. The current focus of the Foundation is on pre-collegiate education, particularly public school reform.