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Annenberg To Award Grants to Chicago, Rural Areas

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The philanthropist Walter H. Annenberg will award a $50 million challenge grant to support broad school-reform efforts in Chicago and $6.5 million for a reform initiative in rural areas in Minnesota and several neighboring states.

The Minnesota grant is expected to be the first in a series of grants by Mr. Annenberg to school-reform efforts in rural areas, totaling about $50 million.

The Chicago gift, slated to be announced this week, is the third Annenberg grant of this magni-tude to an urban-school-reform alliance. A comparable gift to Philadelphia is expected next week.

Similar grants have been awarded to coalitions in New York City and Los Angeles. (See Education Week, 01/11/94).

The new grants are the latest round of the "Annenberg Challenge." In a December 1993 ceremony at the White House, Mr. Annenberg, a retired publisher and diplomat, pledged $500 million to public schools and called on government, business, and foundation leaders to provide matching funds.

At that time, Mr. Annenberg promised to devote much of the gift to the nation's largest school districts, a decision prompted by his concerns about increasing violence in American schools.

But since his initial pledge, Mr. Annenberg has broadened the effort to include rural schools.

Efforts in Rural Areas

The $6.5 million grant, announced last week, will be shared by the Center for School Change at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs and the newly created Center for Reducing Rural Violence, based in Minneapolis.

Both were launched with funding from the Blandin Foundation in Grand Rapids, Minn.

Under the terms of the grant agreement, Blandin will match the Annenberg grant with $2.5 million, and the University of Minnesota will provide an additional $750,000.

Over the next five years they will identify 20 rural communities that want to help students develop a better understanding of local history, art, music, ecology, politics, and economics, and involve students in studying and solving local problems.

Joe Nathan, the director of the Center for School Change, said he was encouraged that the needs of rural schools had been recognized. "That sends a message that is often lost."

Another Annenberg grant to a consortium of rural educators and funders in the Southeast is expected soon, and a similar group reportedly is being launched in the Northeast.

In Chicago, a coalition including local-school-council members, teachers, principals, administrators, and school-reform groups developed the grant proposal.

The coalition was convened by Anne Hallett, the executive director of the Cross City Campaign for Urban School Reform; William Ayers, an associate professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago; and Warren Chapman, a program officer at the Joyce Foundation.

The money will help underwrite the creation of 10 networks of five to 10 schools each, which will work with universities, nonprofit groups, or other outside partners to improve teaching and learning.

The participating schools will be required to allot more time and resources to professional development and to create smaller, more personalized "learning communities."

Leaders of the effort in Chicago will be expected to raise an additional $50 million in private money and $50 million in public resources.

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