By Christina Paxson
Ambassador Walter Annenberg’s $500 million challenge to improve public education in America was announced by President Bill Clinton in 1993, prospects changed dramatically for what was then Brown’s fledgling National Institute for School Reform, now the Annenberg Institute for School Reform.
The scope of its charge to “provoke and nurture the redesign of American schools” expanded by an order of magnitude. Since then it has evolved, responding to shifts in the operating environment, the advancement of knowledge, and new opportunities to effect change.
It established a foundation of expertise and experience—the pioneering work by Theodore Sizer with the Coalition of Essential Schools to widen the opportunity landscape for K-12 students, and the signature focus Warren Simmons brought to urban school districts.
Throughout, its true north has endured: helping create equity and improvement across K-12 public education.
Annenberg’s new director, Professor Susanna Loeb, moved from Stanford to Brown to lead the next era of the Institute’s evolution. She brings a deep public policy perspective to the work, an approach premised on the tested notion that robust research, combined with close ties to decision-makers at all levels, is the best way to inform sound public policy and practice.
The Institute continues to build capacity—modernizing office space, adding researchers—and align with Building on Distinction. Loeb sees a strong, collaborative community of Brown faculty and students, committed to producing knowledge that empowers educators and models how higher education can strengthen K-12 education. Already, Annenberg is producing applicable new knowledge, such as one paper identifying the characteristics of programs that help STEM teachers improve their effectiveness, and a second demonstrating the important role of teachers in reducing absenteeism and increasing graduation rates of the most at-risk students.