Statement of Vartan Gregorian Concerning release of the Annenberg Task Force Report on the Future of Urban Districts

Educators have long believed that school reform will never make the gigantic leaps this century demands by improving schools one by one, but that entire school districts must be transformed in a way that ensures all children have the opportunity to learn, excel and perform at high levels. The knowledge-based economy that is the hallmark of our time—and that will no doubt only become an even more compelling force in the years ahead—requires us all to champion a movement for reform that is both dramatic and intense. The Annenberg Task Force on the Future of Urban Districts, in its two-year existence, has made an urgent case for why there must be district-wide school reform and they have created a blueprint that leaders can follow to ensure that real reform is carried out.

Clearly, America’s urban school districts, which educate tomorrow’s generation—an increasingly diverse group of students—are in need of attention and support. When Carnegie Corporation of New York joined with the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University in 1999, we wanted to build on the education reform movements of the 1990s and create a task force that would no longer simply study the issues, but build a real framework for change. The task force was given a mandate to create a strategy that would offer national education leaders, mayors, school administrators, policymakers and teachers a diagram for reform in districts and cities across the country that would make a difference. We believe the task force has outlined a series of activities and strategies that can ensure the development of school communities that do, indeed, support and promote effective schools.

A major step forward on the road to improving America’s urban schools was Thomas G. Labrecque’s acceptance of the chairmanship of the task force in early 2000. Labrecque, former chairman of New York’s Chase Manhattan Corporation, and a long-time supporter of city education needs, accepted the chairmanship with one caveat—he insisted it had to produce tangible change, not simply a report. Tragically, Tom died soon after he took over the chairmanship, but we believe that this report reflects his commitment to genuine reform. The real work of change and the legacy of all those involved in crafting this blueprint now begins. We are optimistic that the partnerships with cities that the task force plans to establish this year will take seriously Tom Lebreque’s charge “The outcome of this task force is results, not a report.”