The faces of the children peering through the classroom windows on the cover of this report are just some of the 1.5 million children whose lives were touched by the Annenberg Challenge.
The Challenge revived and inspired school reform efforts throughout the nation. It set three goals: To improve education in troubled inner-city schools, to bring long overdue assistance to isolated rural schools, and to demonstrate that the arts should be a basic part of every child's education.
But the Challenge was about more than education. It recognized that strengthening public education was vital to preserving the nation's democratic values. Unless every child had an equal opportunity to get a quality education, the promise of America would be broken.
In all, 18 school improvement projects were launched, supported by new partnerships of Americans who had been stirred to action.
The Challenge did not work miracles, but it breathed new life into American education. It brought hope to schools that had been all but abandoned. It helped educators who had accepted mediocrity and failure to make a new commitment to excellence. It helped teachers to change their minds about students they thought were doomed to failure. It changed the public's beliefs about what is possible in public education.
Though there is still much more to be done, public schools are better today, and teachers are more prepared to help children meet high standards of learning.
The Annenberg Challenge:
Demonstrated that all children can benefit from high expectations and standards if they have programs that meet their needs and qualified teachers to instruct them.
Expanded professional development opportunities for tens of thousands of educators. Improving teaching was the largest and most productive Challenge activity.
Revitalized arts education and led to the hiring of more than 1,000 teachers of music, art, and dance in New York City.
Found ways to make big schools small to strengthen the all-important connection between students and teachers.
Enhanced parental involvement by breaking down the barriers between the school and the home.
Helped schools to form support networks in some of the largest cities in America.
Created intermediary organizations outside of regular school channels. These organizations provided a place where many citizens who had been reluctant to participate in school reform could go to get involved.
Launched important new community partnerships that will carry on the work of the Challenge.
Strengthened the visibility, credibility, and confidence of rural schools.
Bolstered the public's capacity and will to support public education.
The Annenberg Challenge: Lessons and Reflections on School Reform is a report on the findings and recommendations drawn from the broad experience of project activities. The lessons summarized here can provide a springboard for continued aggressive and comprehensive school reform throughout the nation.
We invite all Americans to read this report and share it with others in their communities. We believe that putting the public back into public education is the best way to ensure the future of every child and the future of America.