In anticipation of its 25th anniversary in 2018, the Annenberg Institute for School Reform will hire a new director as it seeks to expand its mission to address inequalities in education.
The main recommendations proposed in a plan called “The Annenberg Institute: A Road Map” build on the institute’s mission of educational equity that has been central to its work for over twenty years, wrote Michael Grady, interim executive director of Annenberg, in an email to The Herald.
“Equity has been our guiding light, connecting our research, technical assistance, community engagement work and our support to districts,” Grady said in a University press release.
The charge to reshape the institute’s mission has been led by Provost Richard Locke, who during summer 2017 invited faculty from across the University, including two senior staff members of Annenberg and Dean of the Faculty Kevin McLaughlin, to review Annenberg’s history and programs. Together they compared the Annenberg Institute to other similar educational policy institutes around the country.
The institute put forth three key recommendations to renew its efforts to promote equity, Locke said. First, the institute will strengthen its focus on educational inequality in relation to school reform. Locke said that Annenberg could focus on the causes and consequences of educational inequality across the country and look for strategies to mitigate the consequences.
The recommendations also suggest that Annenberg integrate its work with University research by creating professorships that will be based in the institute itself. This falls in line with the institute’s efforts to promote equity by focusing on faculty-led social science research and post-doctoral, graduate and undergraduate programs, Grady wrote.
The Annenberg might also tap into the University’s interdisciplinary nature, involving departments like economics, political science and Africana studies, to expand the scope of its work, Locke said.
Thirdly, the institute plans to increase community engagement by working with different local organizations to “translate research into practice,” Locke said. He hinted that a community fellows program or practitioners-in-residence programs might be in the works.
Changing inequality in schooling, especially urban education, requires building “a relationship between people who produce knowledge at institutes like Annenberg and people … engaged with changing communities through economic and housing development,” said Richard Gray ’85, director of community organizing and engagement at Annenberg.
Gray further noted that the institute’s role is to “build knowledge” and “address issues in real-life situations” in a way that can be “practically used.” This cannot happen in a transaction but rather requires a relationship, Gray said.
In the past, Annenberg has worked with organizations throughout the community, including Urban Youth Collaborative, an organization that challenges the school-to-prison pipeline through educational reform and youth empowerment, and Journey for Justice, which fights school closings that disproportionately impact African American and Latino communities, Gray said.
Annenberg has attempted university-community research collaborations, but few have had much impact or staying power, Grady wrote. Part of the success of the strategy will require a new leader with a “crystal-clear vision and track record for translating academic research into positive impacts for systems serving children and families.”
As the University launches a search for Annenberg’s next director, Grady wrote that the new director should be able to provide guidance on how to pursue the new mission for the institute.