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Brown U. Uses $5 Million Gift for Institute for School Reform

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Brown University last week announced the creation of an independent, nonpartisan institute on its campus to serve as a permanent, national voice for school reform.

The National Institute for School Reform was made possible by a $5 million gift from anonymous donors. It will be directed by Theodore R. Sizer, a professor of education at Brown University who also chairs the Coalition of Essential schools, a national school-reform network that he founded in 1984.

The institute will try to reach out to a broader public audience and to forge alliances with other reform networks, but it will remain true to the principles that have undergirded the coalition's work, particularly the idea that all students should be expected to perform up to rigorous academic standards.

"This extraordinary gift begins to make possible the kind of long-term commitment to school reform which America so badly needs,'' Mr. Sizer said.

"Schools change slowly and often painfully, and those of us who would help them in this process have to have patience and a readiness for the long haul,'' he added. "The institute makes this possible.''

According to a press release, the institute will issue an annual progress report on school reform and serve as a "neutral gathering place for all those concerned about schooling.''

It will also tie together like-minded schools with seminars, telecommunications, and publications; help bring them academic resources through a national electronic library; track their progress; and develop critiques, designs, and examples that can accelerate their work.

In addition, the institute will give special attention, resources, and protection to a small number of schools whose redesign efforts seem most promising; document their advances; and disseminate their stories.

Semi-Autonomous Unit

Although the institute will be based at Brown's Providence, R.I. campus, it will operate as a semi-autonomous unit, with its own board of overseers. Most of its resources will be directed toward projects in cities and states.

In announcing the institute, Vartan Gregorian, the president of Brown University, said it will "reinvigorate and expand the work of existing school-reform initiatives at many institutions.''

"It will be collaborative,'' he added, "complementing the best public and private efforts without duplication, and it will draw its inspiration directly from the likeliest source of effective school reform--teachers, students, and school leaders in classrooms across the country.''

The institute's staff will include clinical professors and distinguished visiting fellows from schools, school districts, and government agencies, with the intent of bridging the gap between theory and practice.

In addition, the institute will help create a national "faculty'' of teachers, administrators, school board members, and parents from its colleague schools who will serve as consultants to others interested in their experience.

More information is available from Don Ernst, the director of development, communications, and policy for the Coalition of Essential Schools, at (401) 863-2408.

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