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The Annenberg Grant: A Lost Opportunity

 

I just recently reread The New York Network for School Renewal: A Proposal to the Annenberg Foundation. This was the early 1990s. It was quite amazing. It was approved not only by the Annenbergs, but by the then Chancellor, Mayor, State Commissioner, Board Chairman, President of the UFT, and three partner school-based organizations with rather varied political and educational agendas. We were ready to launch an experimental district of 50,000 students at its maximum and 150 or so schools with fiscal support for five years (nearly 100 schools were already launched). We had agreed upon freedom from all but a few Board, City, State and Union rules, a plan for documentation by both NYU and Teacher College, both ethnographic and statistical. We committed ourselves to serving a population demographically comparable to the city as a whole.

But it never got off the ground because a new Chancellor vetoed it. We got the money—50 million over 5 years—but not the agreed upon autonomies to learn what we needed to learn.

It was a lost opportunity, but it sent me on my way to Boston to join a much smaller and more modest plan developed by the Boston Teachers Union and the Boston Public Schools called the Pilot Project. The Pilot Project was fun, modestly successful, and far less well funded. While it has grown it has lost a lot of its promise as attention shifted to a combination of centralized planning, privatization and anti-union media. I had fun starting a Pilot K-8, Mission Hill, school that is still going strong. No regrets about that. You can see Good Morning Mission Hill on my website and on YouTube for some happy moments.

But we lost the moment to make the case for true accontablity—changes that might change everything that needed changing.

 

 

 

 

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2 Responses

  1. Amazing. Who was the veto human- name… who was Mayor then. And hi! 🙂 Neal 

  2. Recently, I have been reflecting on Annenberg I and II. Many new schools were established. The majority are still open today. While some of the schools turned out to be exemplary, I agree that it was a lost opportunity. Schools were for the most part started by committed and well-meaning educators, parents and community partners. Most were places where a high premium was placed on student personalization and care. But, as the Michelle Fine quote goes, “Hugging aint algebra.” Too few of the schools made significant progress toward ensuring that students were prepared for what would come next in their life and career. The experiment did make a major contribution by informing the early college initiative and other small school efforts based on lessons learned. Still, so much more could have been accomplished.

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