|Matching Grants: Characteristics
All Challenge grant recipients shared the following characteristics:
- A relentless focus on children and schools
The leadership in each Challenge site continually evaluated its plans, strategies, and programs with a vigilant eye to the needs of the most important of the many players in school reform: our children and their teachers.
- A broadly based planning process
Although school districts have been partners in the planning, the proposals that emerged from each site were the product of broad-based collaboration involving local foundations, school reformers, universities, community groups, business leaders, and people working in schools.
- An independent governing structure
All grants were awarded to an independent, non-profit entity and not to local school authorities. Overseeing the implementation of each grant was a newly constituted governing board, composed locally from the same array of groups who engaged in the planning. It was these local Challenge governing boards that decided which schools and external partners received Challenge funding within their site.
- An emphasis on collaboration and partnerships
The Challenge encouraged whole-school reform through partnerships in which individual schools often grouped themselves into clusters, families, or networks; schools also linked with "external partners" such as a university, cultural institution, community group, local business, or reform organization.
- Faith in the inventiveness and judgment of schools and teachers
Unlike the usual funding pattern in which money is given to groups who in turn recruit schools interested in their particular brand of reform, Challenge funding entailed dollars flowing directly to schools that demonstrated the capacity and willingness to reform and that then recruited organizations to support their efforts. Moreover, the terms of each Challenge grant stipulated that no more than 10 percent of the funds awarded by the Annenberg Foundation could spent on administration, ensuring that at least 90 percent of Challenge monies went directly to schools and their partners.
- Explicit political support
Because a basic tenet of the Challenge was that strong community coalitions are necessary to ensure sustained progress, local elected and appointed officials publicly pledged their support for the Challenge and promised to help remove obstacles to schools' reform efforts.