Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Looking back on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge

The Annenberg Foundation funds one of the popular liberal Fact Checkers. But back in the mid-19 90s, it funded a huge program to improve the Chicago Public Schools. "The funding, which had also been provided to cities such as New York and San Francisco, was part of a large-scale local school reform philosophy that intended to improve student achievement and other social and psychological outcomes. In Chicago, the Annenberg Challenge reflected a democratic localism that placed great faith in the ability of local schools, in partnership with parents and their communities, to develop their own strategies to achieve professional development and instructional goals." I was a liberal in the 90s, and if I'd known about it then, I would have been supportive. . . especially the part about "local," and "partnerships."
It was an impressive amount with lofty goals for 200+ elementary schools (Annenberg gave half a billion to be matched by others to 3 city school systems). Barack Obama, a rising young, handsome star on the Chicago public scene, and Bill Ayers, the 1970s terrorist, and meddler in education through the University of Illinois, worked together in the Annenberg Challenge (Ayers wrote the original grant), as it was called. By 2001 a research arm of the University of Chicago did a thorough evaluation at all levels, and pretty much found no improvement in academic scores (compared to those schools which received no funding). It's the same discouraging results that came from Head Start after a 50 year evaluation.
So maybe Obama thought it wasn't enough money and went for higher stakes? And Bill Ayers hasn't changed much either.

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