Rhode Island
United States
name:sector-key:University or Research
General Issues


Annenberg Institute for School Reform

September 16, 2017 Lex07
June 4, 2010 Lex07
Rhode Island
United States
name:sector-key:University or Research
General Issues

I. Purpose and Mission of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform:

The purpose and mission of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform is to challenge to the nation to improve public education in America by enhancing the quality of learning for youth in urban communities across the country.

II. History of the AISR:

In 1993, Brown University of Providence, Rhode Island received an anonymous gift of five million dollars. This is significant for two reasons: one, who in the world gives a five million dollar gift anonymously and where can I find friends like these? And two, this is what funded the take-off for the Annenberg Institute for School Reform project. [1] The first director of the Institute, Dr. Theodore R. Sizer, had previously founded and been chairman of the Coalition of Essential Schools. The Coalition of Essential Schools (CES) forefronts the movement to create and sustain personalized and intellectually-challenging schools [6]. The CES specializes in supporting student achievement and promoting innovative teaching styles. Dr. Sizer built upon this idea with an even broader mission: “to support sustained, focused efforts to enhance the quality of learning of children and youth across the country.” Later, following the retirement of Dr. Sizer in October of 1998, a new executive director was appointed: the then-director of the Philadelphia Education Fund, Dr. Warren Simmons. It was during this time that the AISR adopted the mission statement that it currently acts under to date, with an emphasis on concentrating critical needs to improving public schools in the urban communities of our country.

a. The Challenge:
A few months after the birth of “The Institute” as it is appears to be lovingly nicknamed, another donor felt particularly generous and decided to contribute an additional fifty million dollar gift. This was a part of Ambassador Walter H. Annenberg’s 500-million dollar “Challenge to the Nation,” which was to improve education in America. The “Challenge to the Nation” is the largest public/private undertaking solely dedicated to improving public schools in the history of the United States. Over 35 states have adopted “Challenge” projects focused on serving students and teachers through the funds of private donations from contributors such as businesses, universities, foundations, and various individuals. [2] Each of the “Challenge” projects has to fit within the unique conditions of its local site. The directors are able to ensure that this happens through conducting local planning groups made up of education staff, business leaders, foundation officers, and other community members. These governing boards were given the responsibility and privilege of running the projects. In order to fully understand the Annenberg Institute for School Reform project (AISR), it is important to know the background of the “Challenge.” The “Challenge” is responsible for awarding millions of dollars worth of grants to subprojects such as the AISR, with fifty-million donated so far. In a sense, the “Challenge” is the “big picture” that is hoped to be achieved through secondary organizations much like the AISR.

b. Influential Founder:
Aside from knowing about the “Challenge,” it is also necessary to mention the man who made the whole cause possible, founder Walter H. Annenberg. Annenberg was born in March of 1908 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to lower-class Prussian immigrants. His parents eventually became millionaires from publishing controversial periodicals such as the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily Racing Form, and the Morning Telegraph. He served as US Ambassador to Britain for five years, from 1969 to 1974 [5]. After his father died, Annenberg inherited the family’s Triangle Publications, Inc. and decided to take the trio in a different direction. He used this platform to successfully found Seventeen Magazine in 1944 as well as develop the TV Guide, and own several broadcast TV and stations. After proposing and donating 500-million dollars to the “Challenge” as well as donating an additional 365 million to various prep schools and universities, it is no surprise that Annenberg was considered one of the largest philanthropists to education in his time, earning numerous prestigious honors and awards. In appreciation of all of the generous gifts Annenberg gave in support of the AISR, the Institute was renamed in his honor after his death in 2002 at age 94.

III. Project:

For public engagement, the AISR has created television programs that are designed to link together large groups, sometimes of several hundred people [7]. In 1999, a video workshop put on by the AISR was offered for K-12 teachers, administrators, and parents in order to discuss critical issues in school reform. The AISR has provided eight different video programs that run from about 30-56 minutes long, a workshop guide, as well as a website [8]. Through these media resources, individuals are able to see first-hand how schools and their communities are talking and deliberating about school reform. The primary focus is turning this talk into action by adapting, implementing, and even inventing new tools in order to make actual improvements in student achievement. From the comfort of one’s own home, the workshop takes viewers to eight different places across the country, showing teachers, parents, administrators, civic leaders, and other representatives collaborating on innovative practices in regards to “public engagement and professional development.” The eight different locations include schools in Boston, Missouri, Baltimore, Pasadena, New Hampshire, Virginia, San Bruno, and Massachusetts.

The topics are just as diverse as the variety of locations. Deliberative conversations center on topics from school subjects such as math and science, to other learning factors, like teaching styles, educational challenges, and family cooperation. Each video goes about investigating and discussing these themes in a different way. For example, the teachers at a high school in Pasadena, California do so by using a peer-observation process where the teachers observe one another in their respective classrooms, and then meet both individually and in groups in order to offer their feedback. This results in ways to improve the relation between teaching practice and student achievement. At an elementary school in Boston, teachers and staff aim to enhance student success through close collaboration with the families of students. A Massachusetts school does it differently still: teachers share sample works of her students with a group of teachers , administrators, and parents in a facilitated “consultancy” that focuses on a specific question posed by the teacher about both student work and her own teaching style.

IV. Funding:

As a parent organization of numerous institutes, the “Challenge” is known for offering funds to many of the groups that it has helped create. The Annenberg Institute for School Reform was actually the first recipient of monetary funds from the Annenberg Challenge. At a 50-million dollar price tag, these funds were delegated as an operating and endowment grant. The two organizations were involved in setting guidelines and designing parameters that would dictate how much would go toward Challenge grants at local sites, and how much would go toward evaluating the nationwide efforts of the Challenge. The AISR itself does not play a role in selecting grant recipients, or of allocating the funds. This is the sole responsibility of the overall Annenberg Foundation. The Foundation is in charge of handling all funds and delegating where they go for every project that it oversees. The individual organizations focus exclusively on their missions of improving conditions and outcomes in American schools and education. [3] Different projects and activities put on by the AISR are made possible through the donations of many important funders. These include the likes of certain organizations, programs, schools and universities, as well as private citizens. Some of the biggest donors are the Academy for Educational Development (AED), Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Collaborative Communications Group (CCG), the Community Involvement Program at New York University, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

V. Activities

As a part of the AISR’s ongoing mission to improve public education for American youth, there are plenty of reoccurring activities dedicated to meeting this goal. The AISR aims to inspire “community organizing and engagement” by bringing together citizens from all walks of life: parents, students of all ages, civic officials, businesses, community agencies, cultural institutions, and ordinary average Joe’s to name a few. They then build an understanding within these groups of educational issues in order to advocate for and participate in school-improvement issues. They do this via a few different projects. One of the biggest is the National League of Cities (NLC) Public Engagement Partnership project. With this, the AISR conducted national surveys for promising public engagement strategies in urban settings in order to find what worked best. This review paired the input of the public with an ongoing association of the Education Policy Advisors Network (EPAN) in order to help provide city officials with tools and resources they would need to prepare case studies. This includes developing new tools for civic engagement and utilizes site-based technical support.

Another large activity that is currently going on is the Schools for a New Society Initiative (SNS). This was created in the year 2000 where different districts received funding to restructure their junior high schools. [4] It was designed to spark collaboration between students, parents, officials, and teachers. There are many highlights that have resulted from this project, one being the planned and facilitated cross-site learning network among citizens in the different districts. This is an annual event that lasts three days and is hosted by the SNS Learning Institute branch. A spin-off of this occurred in the New England region in a two-day meeting in which cross-high school visits took place. An electronic newsletter named Adolescent Literacy Matters was also distributed and shared information on resources, events, strategies, and materials for learning styles.

VI. Publications

For the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, publications are very important. They help get the word out about their cause in the hopes of getting more participation and feedback. On the AISR official website, there is a list of their printed and web publications, as well as their products. These can be found at:

Below are just a few titles and blurbs:

a. Collective Practice, Quality Teaching Voices in Urban Education 27
“To maintain teaching quality in hard-to-staff schools, education leaders need to view teaching not just as an individual act, but as a collective activity within and beyond school walls.” (Spring 2010)

b. Leading Indicator Spotlight Series
“A series of research briefs that highlight three of the most useful and accessible leading indicators; early reading proficiency, algebra enrollment and achievement, and the use of college and pre-college admission test scores for high school placement.” (Spring 2010)

c. The College Pathways Tool Series
“These tools include rubrics, surveys, focus group protocols, and examples of best practices to help high schools and their partners examine how well they are preparing students, especially low-income students, for graduation and college.” (Spring 2010)

d. Building Smart Education Systems Voices in Urban Education 26
“Highlights from the first twenty-five issues of VUE illustrate different components of a smart education system from a variety of perspectives. The disparate voices brought together by VUE have not always agreed, but out of their dialogue, common ground and a vision for smart education systems have emerged.” (Winter 2010)

e. Organized Communities, Stronger Schools: Case Study Series
“A six-year study documents the positive impact of local community organizing on school capacity and student learning in seven urban communities.” (October 2009)

VII. Secondary Literature & Sources

[1] – History: [1] This is the AISR’s official organization page. It has all of the certified information listed on it, including but definitely not limited to:

[2] Annenberg Institute in general aka “The Challenge”:[2]

[3] Specific organizations, such as their foundation:[3]

[4] Various activities and partnerships: [4]

[5] – Founder Walter H. Annenberg: [5]
This source comes from the Britannica Encyclopedia and details information over the man behind it all, Walter H. Annenberg. It is helpful to know this information because it gives the public a feel for how the Institute got its start both financially and morally.

[6] – Coalition of Essential Schools: [6]
The Coalition of Essential Schools is an organization that works with the AISR. The original founder of the AISR, Dr. Theodore R. Sizer, got his start here and built upon those principles in order to create the AISR and make it what it is today.

[7] – “The Practice of Deliberative Democracy: A Study of 16 Deliberative Organizations.” [7]
This is a scholarly article written by David Michael Ryfe and it highlights 16 deliberative organizations, including the AISR. It talks about different projects it has done, and how they have done them.

[8] – [8]
This organization showcases the different resources that the AISR utilized in order to conduct their deliberative activities research and how the compiled their data in order to make the necessary changes to school reform in America.

VIII. Citations & Links

- "Annenberg Institute for School Reform." Annenberg Institute. AISR Brown University. Web. 04 June 2010. <>.

- "Resource: Critical Issues in School Reform." Teacher Professional Development and Teacher Resources by Annenberg Media. Web. 04 June 2010. <>.

- Ryfe, David Michael(2002) 'The Practice of Deliberative Democracy: A Study of 16 Deliberative Organizations', Political Communication, 19: 3, 359 — 377. <>

- "Transforming Public Education." Coalition of Essential Schools. CES. Web. 04 June 2010. <>.

- "Walter H. Annenberg." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2010. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 03 Jun. 2010 <>.