Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1996-1997 index

Distributed October 28, 1996
Contact: Tracie Sweeney

The Annenberg Challenge to the Nation

Detroit school initiative receives $20 million from Annenberg Foundation

Detroit's Schools of the 21st Century Initiative, a collaborative public school reform effort, has received a five-year, $20-million challenge grant from the Annenberg Foundation. The initiative aims to improve teaching, learning, and cooperation among school, staff and community, especially parents. The grant will be matched by $20 million from state and federal education funds and $20 million from private foundations and corporations.

DETROIT -- The largest and most comprehensive reform effort ever undertaken in the Detroit public schools was launched today with the award of a $20-million challenge grant from the Annenberg Foundation to the Schools of the 21st Century. Triggering the award was the strong support of Michigan-based foundations and the entire Detroit community.

"Detroit has submitted to the Annenberg Challenge an ambitious plan for school improvement - a plan that involves the collaboration of parent and community organizations, the public school system, teacher and administrator unions, universities, business and school reform organizations," said Walter H. Annenberg. "It is a plan made even more compelling by persuasive advocacy from local and national foundations and by the decision of Detroit's public and private partnership to sustain the project for a full 10 years."

Added Brown University President Vartan Gregorian, pro bono adviser to Mr. Annenberg and coordinator of the Challenge projects and initiatives, "After several years of planning and debate about how best to bring lasting change to schools in Detroit, I am delighted to see such a strong proposal emerge."

The $20-million Annenberg Challenge grant will be matched by $20 million from state and federal education funds and $20 million from private foundations and corporations. These funds, totaling $60 million, will be allocated over five years. If successful, the initiative will continue for a second five years with an additional $40 million in public and private funding.

The initiative will be directed by the newly created nonprofit Schools of the 21st Century Corporation. The Corporation will be governed by a 16-member board, which will be responsible for setting policy and all fiscal matters. There will be a 30-member council responsible for programs and grants.

The Schools of the 21st Century Initiative is sponsored by a broad coalition of 14 major stakeholders in Detroit public education, including parent and community organizations, the Detroit public school system, local and national private foundations, teachers and administrators, unions, universities and major coalitions.

The initiative is designed to directly improve the achievement of Detroit's public school students, better preparing them for higher education and the workplace. Its mission is to institutionalize bold, comprehensive school reform at the local school level to ensure high levels of student performance. This will be accomplished by:

"It is the most important thing we will ever do. It's building relationships with students, teachers, parents and the community. This effort affords us the chance to change the face of public education in Detroit as we know it," said William Beckham, president of New Detroit, Inc., and spokesman for the program.

Under the Schools of the 21st Century Initiative:

Successful reform efforts in the clusters under the initiative will be shared throughout the district. Such learning communities as these are expected to become the norm.

"We are a full partner in this process and are committed to lend our full support to the reform efforts of this initiative," said David Snead, superintendent of Detroit public schools.

The proposal for the Schools of the 21st Century Initiative was drafted over the last year and a half and included the Detroit public schools. Other sponsoring organizations are the City-Wide School Community Organization, the Detroit Federation of Teachers, the Detroit Urban League, the Kellogg Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, the Michigan Neighborhood Partnership, the Organization of School Administrators and Supervisors, the Detroit NAACP, New Detroit Inc., The Skillman Foundation, United Way Community Services, Warren/Connor Development Coalition and Wayne State University.

"The plan represents a significant step forward for school improvement planning efforts in Detroit," said Irma Clark, president of the Detroit School Board. "The process is built on the experience of the district's previous school improvement efforts and the concerns of parents and community advocates. The result is a plan that reflects both experience of veteran school reformers and local community commitments and priorities."

An independent outside evaluator will be hired by the initiative's board and approved by the Annenberg Foundation and other private funders to track results of the program.

Annenberg Challenge grants have also been awarded to projects in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, the San Francisco Bay Area and Philadelphia.

For more information or to set up interviews in Detroit, call Margo E. Williams & Associates Inc. at 313/961-6622.