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Annenberg Seeks Applicants for Faculty Network

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Some 500 schools nationwide have been invited to apply for a professional-development network announced last week by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform.

The National School Reform Faculty will promote a new model of professional development, in which teams of teachers and administrators meet within their schools to critique each other's work and engage in schoolwide change.

"Rather than following a more traditional professional-development model--where you take teachers out of their school or out of their classroom and 'train' them and then send them back without follow-up or support--this is an entirely different process," said Michael Patron, the headmaster of the Crefeld School in Philadelphia and one of a group of teachers and administrators who helped design the program.

Sustaining Change

The Brown University-based institute was launched in 1993 to promote school reform nationwide and is headed by Theodore R. Sizer, an education professor at the university.

It bears the name of its principal benefactor, Walter H. Annenberg, who gave the institute $50 million in 1994 as part of a $500 million pledge to the nation's public schools. (See Education Week, Jan. 12, 1994.)

From the outset, the institute has proposed to sustain school-based change, in part, by creating a network of professional educators who could support each other in the field. The National School Reform Faculty grew out of those discussions.

The faculty will be made up of clusters of teachers and principals from innovative schools across a range of geographic, economic, and ethnic settings. The institute expects to begin with about 45 such clusters, of four to 10 people each, drawn from educators at the 500 schools that were invited to apply.

The institute will train and support coaches to work with the clusters, provide professional development, and give the clusters approximately $2,000 each.

In return, participating schools will have to provide significant time for teachers and administrators to meet and visit each other's classrooms on a regular basis.

Eventually, the national faculty is expected to include thousands of teachers and principals. Each group must agree to keep children and their work as the focus of its efforts.

The institute expects its board of overseers to give final approval to the program this spring, when funding for the project will be announced.

'Culture of Inquiry'

The project reflects some of the ideas of the National Re:Learning Faculty, which was created by the Coalition of Essential Schools to provide support to its members. Mr. Sizer also chairs the coalition.

But the new venture will differ in several respects.

While the Re:Learning faculty relies on experienced educators to serve as "critical friends" to schools engaged in change, said Gene Thompson-Grove, a senior associate with the coalition, "we're really talking about developing learning communities and a culture of inquiry within schools, and ways for teachers to learn from each other."

To be considered, each team must include four to 10 teachers or administrators from a single school. Becoming faculty members will take two years. Each group will spend that time focusing on its own practice, as well as on issues related to school-based change. An experienced coach will work with each group.

During the two-year period, the clusters will prepare portfolios based on their work. The portfolios will be presented to a peer-review committee as the basis of each individual's application to join the national faculty. Members will serve as consultants in their own schools and others to promote effective classroom practices and assist in schoolwide change.

The institute also plans to seek regional sources of funding.

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