A Message from the Executive Director
For nearly two decades, the Annenberg Institute has hewed to a single mission: to develop, share, and act on knowledge that improves the conditions and outcomes of schooling in America, especially in urban communities and in schools serving disadvantaged children. We adopted that mission because our abiding concern for equity demanded a focus on urban schools and communities, where inequities in opportunities and results remain unacceptable.
Since that time, we have seen many improvements in urban education, and the Institute is proud of whatever small role we have played in some of them . However, we know the job is incomplete. While many urban school districts can justly claim that their students have attained basic-level knowledge and skills, no large urban district can say that all of its students have developed the abilities they will need to be effective citizens in a complex, diverse society or workers in a global, creative economy.
We know that schools alone cannot ensure that all students have the resources and supports they need to reach that level. Districts, in partnership with community agencies and organizations, need to provide a comprehensive web of learning support. We call this type of partnership a “smart education system.” Our work is focused on defining such a system and assisting communities in developing and strengthening their systems. We do so while adhering to our core principles.
Districts and Communities
A smart education system is built on three pillars: schools, districts, and communities. The importance of schools is obvious, and fortunately, there are many organizations, including many with which we partner, that provide resources and supports to strengthen instruction and learning in classrooms.
We have chosen to concentrate on the areas that match our expertise and experience: districts and communities. In 2000, the Institute formed a national task force to examine the role of urban districts. At the time, districts were seldom considered vital to educational improvement, except as a source of problems. But the task force concluded that redesigned districts are essential to ensuring results and equity, and it outlined a vision for a district that could support students and schools effectively.
The task force’s conclusions have informed much of our work since then. We currently work with districts to build their capacity to support schools and students, and are developing and testing an array of tools to support them in those efforts.
Similarly, we work to build local capacity and develop supporting tools to enable community organizations to provide pressure and support for educational improvement. Community organizing and engagement has been a hallmark of the Institute’s agenda since the 1990s, when the Institute supported the eighteen Annenberg Challenge sites. Our work in this area was strengthened substantially in 2006, when the New York City-based Community Involvement Program joined the Institute and augmented our expertise and capacity. With them we have continued to work on building community engagement in New York, and have expanded our engagement work in other cities. In 2011, the Institute launched a major national initiative, the Center for Education Organizing, that provides research, policy analysis, and alliance-building support to individual groups and national networks engaged in education reform.
Globally and Locally
We are engaged in building smart education systems in a number of cities throughout the country. Yet we are also committed to upholding our values at home, both as a member of the Brown University community and as a citizen of Providence and Rhode Island.
At Brown, we are helping to prepare the next generation of urban education leaders through the Urban Education Policy master’s program. In Providence, we are providing research and technical assistance support to the mayor’s Children and Youth Cabinet in its school-improvement efforts.