New York education group merges with Annenberg Institute

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Community Involvement Program, an education policy program previously housed under the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University, merged with Brown’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform this September.

According to Michael Grady, the deputy director of the Annenberg Institute, the CIP split from NYU because of “serious policy disagreements,” and officials decided that Brown was the right home for the organization.

“(CIP Director Norm Fruchter) and Warren (Simmons, the director of the Annenberg Institute) had been professional friends for 10 years,” Grady said. “There were some issues around the organizational changes at NYU, and Norm felt that this was a good place for the CIP.”

The Annenberg Institute, which offers both technical support and diagnostic tools for urban school districts, consists of three departments: Opportunity and Accountability, which reviews district operations and organization; District Redesign and Leadership, which conducts broader assessments of the functioning of a school district’s central office; and Community Involvement, which encompasses most of the staff at the institute.

“The addition of the CIP is very beneficial for this department of the (Annenberg Institute) to help out with community involvement,” Grady said of the Community Involvement department.

The institute provides support in the form of new tools and product developments through grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. These grants allow the institute to create products and procedures to improve the efficacy of school districts based on evidence that has worked in the field and in other districts, Grady said.

The Annenberg Institute was founded in 1993 with a $50 million donation to Brown from Walter Annenberg, a publisher and diplomat who pledged a total of $500 million to various organizations to improve public education across the nation. In 1996, then-President Vartan Gregorian acted as the institute’s director, according to the its Web site.

According to Fruchter, the Annenberg Institute is complementary to the CIP because it “responds to the community’s needs.”

“The Annenberg Institute has very high-level policy. It tries to help schools improve student outcomes, (and studies) how to make district offices more effective (and) assess and develop schooling programs more effectively,” he said.

The CIP brings together various community organizations and provides them with training, data and support to “multiply political strength and create a citywide policy to improve education,” Fruchter said. “We support a lot of grassroots organizations for school reform.”

“We are a program that is seen as a communitywide and citywide project,” he added. “We see where the holes are, and we can predict and think as a community to redistribute the funds where they are needed the most.”

“We’ve both got things to give. The CIP has helped connect us to a more grassroots base while we have a stronger systems perspective which we will use to try and move their work onto a national stage,” Grady said of the Annenberg Institute.

“The CIP has been a great grassroots-based organization in New York City, but now their work can be expanded onto a national level,” he continued. Grady cited Richard Gray, a member of the CIP staff who joined forces with the Rhode Island Children’s Crusade for Higher Education to examine high schools in the Providence area as an example of the CIP’s far-reaching influence.

“This program has made CIP’s presence felt here in Providence as well as in six other cities,” including Boston, San Diego and Houston, Grady said.

However, the merging of the program will pose some challenges, according to Grady. For instance, logistical difficulties arise when trying to coordinate two institutions located 250 miles apart.

“We have different histories and different cultures, but we’re committed to blending the two organizations into one distinct body which will continue to research urban education issues,” Grady said.

The Annenberg Institute is not the only section of the University that will benefit from the merger. Several staff members at the CIP taught at NYU and are interested in possibly teaching a course in Brown’s Urban Education Program.

The merger has also created more opportunities for Brown students in New York. “Our expanded presence in New York City has shifted from an existing small office in New York to 5,000 square feet and 15 staff members,” Grady said. “This is an opportunity for Brown students to get involved through summer internships or research.”