University News

Grant funds inner-city student engagement

Contributing Writer
Tuesday, September 25, 2012


The Annenberg Institute for School Reform received a $600,000 grant from the Ford Foundation in August that will be used to implement and evaluate the organization’s More and Better Learning Time initiative. Over the course of two years, Annenberg will assess the initiative, which aims to increase student academic engagement in secondary schools in impoverished districts across the U.S. by increasing the length of the school day or year.

The project will begin by “mapping the landscape” of the initiative to understand what it looks like in each of the cities, which include New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Denver and Newark, N.J., said Michelle Renee, principal associate for Annenberg and one of the head investigators for the initiative. 

In the second phase of the project, Annenberg will evaluate the program by measuring indicators at the student, school and ecosystem levels. 

The Ford Foundation expects the indicators to document the “inside and outside process” of engaging people within and outside of the schools, said Jeannie Oakes, director of Educational Opportunity and Scholarship programs at the Ford Foundation. Rather than just measuring test scores, they hope to measure how the program affects “issues around young people’s development – their ambitions for the future, their engagement, or hopefully less engagement, of risky behaviors … because they’re in a safe place where they have interesting opportunities to learn,” she said. 

The point is not to create an afterschool program but instead “to create a whole-school reform that provides rich learning opportunities for children who don’t have access to them,” Renee said.

The grant will also be used to organize and collect the data gathered in all the cities.

“The Ford Foundation and the Annenberg Institute have worked together for many years, so this is a continuation of the relationship,” Renee said.

Though Ford generally offers an application process to organizations looking for grants, they specifically reached out to Annenberg for help developing these measures.

“We are very pleased that the Ford Foundation has selected (Annenberg) as both a collaborator and analyst for this critically important initiative,” said Warren Simmons, executive director for Annenberg, in an August press release.

“One of the major reasons (we chose Brown) is that they’re just terrific at what they do,” Oakes said, calling Annenberg the “ideal group” for this project. 

“They are respected around the country for understanding the problems of education, and they produce knowledge and communicate it in a way that really resonates with Americans,” she added.