As leaders of the Annenberg Challenge gathered in Washington last week to give themselves a collective pat on the back, Secretary of Education Rod Paige handed out some kudos of his own.
In his former job as schools superintendent in Houston, Mr. Paige said, he witnessed the good that came from the national school improvement initiative launched by retired U.S. ambassador and publisher Walter H. Annenberg 81/2 years ago. Houston was one of nine large urban areas around the country that received five-year matching grants from the challenge between 1995 and 1997.
“The effects of your generosity will ripple down through the ages and have a huge impact for years and years to come,” Mr. Paige said, referring to the philanthropist. Mr. Paige made his remarks at an event marking the release of a report on what was learned and accomplished by the challenge, which included major urban, rural, and arts education efforts. (“Annenberg Challenge Yields Lessons for Those Hoping to Change Schools,” June 12, 2002.)
Secretary Paige was the keynote speaker at the event, which was held June 12 a few blocks from the White House, where Mr. Annenberg had announced his $500 million gift to American public education in 1993.
Some critics have questioned whether Mr. Annenberg got his money’s worth. And the report acknowledges some disappointments and missteps, including a tendency by the initiative to spread itself too thin.
Mr. Paige, for his part, voiced no doubts about the Annenberg Challenge’s accomplishments. But he made clear that he saw even Mr. Annenberg’s landmark gift as little more than a down payment on what’s needed to fulfill the goal of creating “an education system that educates 100 percent of our kids.”
Turning toward Mr. Annenberg’s wife, Leonore, who was on hand to represent her 94-year-old husband, Mr. Paige said, “It’s almost shameful for me to ask you to redouble your efforts, but I think that’s going to be required.”
A version of this article appeared in the June 19, 2002 edition of Education Week