2013 Marks the 20th Anniversary of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform (2/20/13)

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PROVIDENCE -- Endowed by a $50-million gift from the Annenberg Foundation in 1993, Brown University's Annenberg Institute for School Reform (AISR) proudly celebrates its two decades of support to urban education reform in 2013.

402 AISR is a national policy research and reform-support organization that collaborates with school districts and communities to improve the conditions and outcomes of urban schools.  The institute focuses on three crucial issues in education reform today: college and career readiness, and expanded learning time, and school transformation.

“Nearly 60 years after Brown v Board of Education, large disparities in educational opportunities and outcomes still exist, especially in low-income communities and for children of color,” said Warren Simmons, AISR’s executive director. “Remedying this requires an unflinching commitment to reducing inequities in learning opportunities and results, and to cultivating and rekindling the beliefs of educators and communities in the capacity of all students to excel.  This core commitment has driven our work from the beginning, and will continue to do so in the future.”

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Annenberg Institute in 2013, executive director
Warren Simmons sat down with us to answer questions about the history of AISR, developments in
education reform, and highlights from a recent meeting with US education secretary Arne Duncan.


Warren Simmons answers the question:
"How has AISR changed since you were named exective director 15 years ago?"

More questions for Warren:

  > What key developments have taken place during the last two decades of education reform in the United States?
  > How would you characterize education reform today?
  > Can you share some highlights of your recent meeting with US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan?
  > Since Brown University's master's program in Urban Education Poicy was launched five years ago, has your curriculum or approach changed?

Established by education reform leader Theodore (Ted) R. Sizer, the founder of the Coalition of Essential Schools and former chair of Brown’s Education Department, the institute was renamed to honor philanthropist, former diplomat and publisher Walter H. Annenberg following the Annenberg Foundation's generous contribution.  Located at Brown University and independent of the Annenberg Foundation, AISR is governed by a Board of Overseers chaired by Brown's president.

In 2000, the institute formed a national task force to examine the education-reform role of urban school districts, and concluded that their redesign is essential to the achievement of equity and school improvement.  AISR, through its District Redesign and Leadership (DR&L) practice, currently collaborates with urban districts to build capacity to support their schools and students, and develops an array of tools to support them.

In 2006, the institute formed the Community Organizing & Engagement (CO&E) practice by incorporating the Community Involvement Program, formerly based at NYU's Steinhardt School of Education.  Operating from AISR’s New York City office, CO&E supports community organizing for education reform by helping youth, parent and community groups develop sufficient power to improve the quality of education in urban school districts.

AISR's Research & Policy staff engages in a range of projects to inform both the institute’s own work and the fields of district-level reform and community organizing for school reform.  This includes original research, documentation and evaluation of reform efforts, analyses of current education policies, and the development of tools to share lessons and best practices.

In collaboration with Brown's Education Department, AISR established a Master’s Program in Urban Education Policy (UEP) in 2006.  The tightly focused, 12-month academic curriculum, integrated with a nine-month internship, is designed to impart a set of core skills and competencies necessary for successful careers in urban education policy.  To date, degrees have been conferred on 75 graduates. In spring 2012, AISR's Board of Overseers established the Ruth J. Simmons Urban Education Policy Scholarship, a permanent, annual award for UEP Master’s degree candidates that honors the university's retired president and former AISR board chair.

AISR also serves as a bridge from Brown to Providence and Rhode Island, providing support for the Providence Public School District, the R.I. Department of Education, the Central Falls School District, and the Mayor's Children & Youth Cabinet.  In 2008-09, Warren Simmons chaired the Governor's Urban Education Task Force that identified six major recommendations for the transformation of urban schooling in the state.  In partnership with the Rhode Island Foundation, AISR is sponsoring a series of six forums focused on "Building a 21st Century Education System” in the Ocean State.


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