Mission and Core Principles
The Annenberg Institute adopted its current mission in 1998: “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.“
Our current focus is on developing and promoting the concept of “smart education systems”; that is, systems that coordinate educational supports and services wherever they occur — at school, at home, and in the community —to provide all children with equitable opportunities and high-quality learning experiences.
Furthermore, the Institute’s primary lines of inquiry include college readiness, extended learning and school transformation.
The Annenberg Institute’s values are embodied in four core principles, which stem from our understanding of what makes both organizations and education reform function effectively. These interrelated principles underlie all our work as well as how we function as an organization.
In education reform, the ultimate goal is improved student achievement, especially in our nation's cities, where large numbers of students, particularly young people of color, are not reaching the levels of achievement they need in order to live successful lives as adults.
This principle carries several implications for our work. First, it implies results at scale: all young people deserve to be successful. For that to happen, improvements need to occur across entire school systems, not just in a few schools. Secondly, it implies responsibility: to ensure success, we must measure our progress and hold our partners and ourselves accountable for our roles in the results. Thirdly, it implies opportunity: both students and educators must have appropriate and high-quality opportunities to learn if they are to perform at high levels; young people's opportunities for healthy development are the collective responsibility of all civic institutions in a community.
In our work with school communities and their partners, we co-design and support efforts to raise achievement for all students, and we gather and analyze evidence about how those efforts are influencing achievement.
Our commitment to improved results for all young people underscores our belief that equity is paramount. Public education today — fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education — remains highly inequitable; some children have far more opportunities and resources than others. And those with the fewest opportunities and resources tend to be children of color.
A focus on equity can mean distributing resources unequally, because those with the fewest resources often have the greatest need. It also means paying attention to race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic class in opportunities as well as results. Individual backgrounds, as well as past and current patterns of expectation and discrimination, affect how both children and adults learn and how they get along with one another.
In our work, our partners and we intentionally take the backgrounds and circumstances of students, educators, and the community into account. We endeavor to keep issues of race and ethnicity on the table. The diversity of backgrounds of the Institute staff directly informs our approach to issues of equity.
Because no single institution has a monopoly on expertise and resources, it is clear that the responsibility for improving educational opportunities and results goes well beyond schools and districts. Effective and lasting improvement requires the breadth and depth of support and resources that entire communities can provide.
The role of communities implies the importance of partnerships between schools and districts and a variety of community groups, including parents, taxpayers, municipal officials, community-based organizations, youth-serving agencies, philanthropic institutions, and local reform support organizations. Managing partnerships, particularly those involving multiple stakeholders, is hard work, but making the effort to forge good working relationships pays dividends for student achievement.
In our work we encourage districts to partner with a range of community organizations that support their vision and goals. Our own work relies heavily on partnerships with organizations that share our principles; through these partnerships, we are able to offer resources and support for school reform beyond the scope of our small staff. The Institute is an active partner in school improvement efforts in Providence and in Rhode Island.
Education is, of course, about learning, and adults as well as children need to learn continually. Research has shown that student achievement increases when educators participate in ongoing, significant professional learning.
This principle implies that all adults and children deserve the opportunity to learn what they need to know to succeed. Currently, the amount and quality of learning opportunities vary widely — and, hence, inequitably — from school to school and district to district. Especially for teachers and school leaders, sustained opportunities for high-quality professional learning are scarce.
Helping schools and districts become true “learning communities” has been part of the Institute’s work since its inception. As an external partner, the Institute helps school communities build the capacity of all the adults who support students‘ learning. Our role is to “co-design” with a district and its local partners the knowledge and tools that will enable them to sustain a learning community on their own. The Institute also provides significant learning opportunities for its staff and its partners — we strive to be, as one observer put it, “the place where school reformers go to school.”