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$50 Million Annenberg Grant Expected for Phila.

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Walter H. Annenberg is expected to award a $50 million grant to the Philadelphia public schools this week, his fourth gift of this magnitude to an urban school system in as many months.

Following the pattern of his foundation's previous grants to New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago, a coalition of Philadelphia education, business, and civic leaders will be required to raise an additional $100 million in matching funds: $50 million from the public sector, and $50 million from the private sector.

The money will be used to support efforts in the district to create more personalized learning environments by breaking larger schools into smaller, self-managed units that have more discretion over resources and curricula. The Philadelphia school system is the sixth-largest in the nation, with 207,000 students.

Superintendent David W. Hornbeck said the challenge grant from Mr. Annenberg, a retired publisher and diplomat, was great news for the city's students.

"The basic precept of our 'children achieving' reform agenda is that all children can achieve at high levels given the right kind of support," he said.

A Pause in the Challenge

The education reformer Theodore R. Sizer--who, with Vartan Gregorian, the president of Brown University, has advised Mr. Annenberg over the past year--suggested that the Philadelphia grant may be the last to be announced for a while.

Mr. Annenberg launched what he called the Annenberg Challenge at a White House ceremony in December 1993, when he pledged to contribute $500 million to the nation's schools.

The Philadelphia grant--combined with grants to New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles and other grants to national reform groups and to a rural-education initiative--bring funds pledged to date to $331.5 million. (See Education Week, Jan. 25, 1995.)

"As advisers to the Annenberg Foundation, we are pausing in our delivery of advice," Mr. Sizer, a Brown University education professor, said in an interview last week. "I think we're all going to take a step back and see where we are."

However, he emphasized, it is the Annenberg Foundation that is "calling the shots."

Greater Philadelphia Futures, a coalition of leaders from 31 major Philadelphia corporations, will be the fiscal agent for the new grant.

"This must be a communitywide effort," said John P. Claypool, the group's executive director.

Several observers suggested that the Philadelphia effort is unique among the urban school-reform alliances aided by the Annenberg Foundation in that it has been driven largely by the district's superintendent rather than by forces outside the school system.

The objective of the group that drafted the Annenberg proposal, said Robert Schwartz, the director of education programs at the Pew Charitable Trusts, "has to find the elements of Mr. Hornbeck's strategic plan that fit the best with Mr. Annenberg's interests, in order to have a single comprehensive reform effort in Philadelphia in which all the pieces fit."

Pew, a Philadelphia-based foundation, has invested about $26 million in the city's efforts over the past six years to reform its schools.

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