Annenberg in Chicago: Not radical, not effective

Annenberg’s education philanthropy in Chicago wasn’t all that radical, according to Education Week, even though ex-Weatherman Bill Ayers helped write the plan.  Barack Obama, then a young lawyer, chaired the committee.  Money went to  “encouraging collaboration among teachers and better professional development; reducing the isolation between schools and between schools and their communities; and reducing school size to improve learning.”

The other members of the board were Arnold R. Weber, a former president of Northwestern University who was then president of the civic committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago; Stanley Ikenberry, a former president of the University of Illinois system; Ray Romero, a vice president of Ameritech; Susan Crown, a philanthropist; Handy Lindsey, the president of the Field Foundation of Illinois; and Wanda White, the executive director of the Community Workshop for Economic Development.

Schools that got extra funds didn’t do any better than schools that did not.

Ed Week also looks at the candidates’ attitudes toward parents’ role in education: McCain wants to give parents a choice on what school their child attends; Obama wants parents to do more to help their kids succeed in school.

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  1. As my teenage daughters would say, “Yeah, right.” Why would anyone outside of teacher ed put stock in anything EdWeek would have to say about education?

  2. Margo/Mom says:


    There are other sources of information. The Annenberg Foundation has posted on its website a pretty good chunk of documentation from the project. addresses some aspects as it has been brounght into political campaigning.

  3. Frank Zavisca says:

    National Review’s Stanley Kurtz has found all we need to know about the Annenberg Foundation, despite obstruction by the Obama campaign.

    Bottom Line (aside from Ayres’s past):

    Chicago’s public schools have about the hightest dropout rate of any American city.

    Does anyone need ot say more about the “success” of the “reform”?

  4. Margo/Mom says:

    I have read Stanley Kurtz. He is more than a bit egotistical about his “discoveries.” Check the Annenberg website and you will find a wealth of information publically posted. As I read it, the CAC funding was targetted towards increasing the capacity of neighborhoods to be involved in schools (and schools to be involved/responsive to their neighborhoods). This responded to the political reality that a good bit of decision-making in Chicago had already been devolved to the building level, with an expectation of involvement of local advisory committees. I offer this because I have seen CAC critiqued on everything from reading scores to using funds for math curriculum to (now) drop-out rates.

    Can a CAC-like approach contribute to decresed drop-out rates? Well, I don’t know. It is certainly possible that that the infrastructure created by CAC-like programs could support efforts to keep kids in school. There are some programs that have some research behind them at this time, not so much as anyone might prefer–but more than was available during implementation of the CAC. But it is a fairly irresponsible evaluation tenet to decide years after a program has been implemented to determine what the success criterial will be.