PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — After 16 years as executive director of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, Warren Simmons will step down on June 30, 2015, at the end of the current academic year. Simmons will continue his work on national school reform efforts and will remain affiliated with the Annenberg Institute as a senior fellow.
“Brown University and the Annenberg Institute have long been committed to advancing educational excellence, supporting innovation by U.S. school districts and evaluating programs to highlight best practices,” said Brown President Christina Paxson. “This is essential work of national importance, and I congratulate Dr. Simmons on his leadership and creative contributions. I look forward to working with Warren in his role as senior fellow.”
Simmons has devoted his entire career to improving education. After earning his doctorate in psychology from Cornell in 1979, he focused on ways to improve literacy for people of all ages, from low-income preschool children to soldiers in the U.S. Army, with particular attention to the literacy skills of elementary schoolchildren from minority groups and children whose first language is not English.
Simmons came to Brown from the Philadelphia Education Fund in the fall of 1998, succeeding Theodore Sizer as the Annenberg Institute’s executive director. He began by convening a national task force of education reformers — School Communities That Work: A National Task Force on the Future of Urban Districts — to address fundamental areas of necessary reform from the design of high schools to stronger math and science, broader exposure to the arts, improved college readiness, community involvement, and higher levels of black and Latino male achievement. That work attracted significant support from leading national foundations.
Other achievements and ongoing programs at the Annenberg Institute include:
- The Annenberg Institute and Brown’s Department of Education established a Master’s Program in Urban Education Policy (UEP) in 2006. The tightly focused, 12-month academic curriculum, integrated with a nine-month internship, develops a set of core skills and competencies necessary for successful careers in urban education policy. Since its establishment, the UEP program has conferred degrees on more than 125 graduates. In 2012, the Annenberg Institute’s Board of Overseers established the Ruth J. Simmons Urban Education Policy Scholarship, a permanent annual award for UEP master’s degree candidates that honors the University’s 18th president and former Annenberg Institute Board chair.
- In 2008-09, the Annenberg Institute supported the Governor’s Urban Education Task Force, a key factor in Rhode Island’s successful Race to the Top application. In partnership with the Rhode Island Foundation, the Annenberg Institute sponsored a series of eight forums in 2011-13, “Building a 21st Century Education System in Rhode Island: Getting It Done.”
- In 2006, the Annenberg Institute formed the Community Organizing and Engagement practice by incorporating the Community Involvement Program, formerly based at New York University, and opening a New York City office. The practice supports community organizing for education reform by helping youth, parent, and community groups develop sufficient power to improve the quality of education in low-performing urban school districts.
- The Annenberg Institute connects Brown University with state and local schools, providing support for the Providence Public School District, the R.I. Department of Education, the Central Falls School District, and the Providence Mayor’s Children and Youth Cabinet.
As a senior fellow at the Annenberg Institute, Simmons will devote his energies to advancing two recent projects: the Urban Philanthropy Network — a new national coalition of philanthropic, entertainment, sports, education, and investment organizations dedicated to preparing disadvantaged students for success in college — and the emerging Education Justice Network, an effort to coordinate support for securing high-quality educational opportunity for all children. Simmons will also remain a faculty member in the Urban Education Policy program.
“I am excited by this new opportunity — to remain at Brown, working on two initiatives that promise to have a major impact on educational quality in the United States,” Simmons said. “The Annenberg Institute will continue to address persistent challenges — improving the quality of our schools and narrowing a substantial achievement gap for disadvantaged students. I will continue to work with colleagues and I look forward to supporting the new director during the transition.”
The Annenberg Institute
The Annenberg Institute for School Reform was established at Brown University as part of Ambassador Walter Annenberg’s 1993 Challenge to the Nation. The Annenberg Challenge, a half-billion dollar gift to energize and support promising efforts at school reform throughout the country, was announced Dec. 17, 1993 in the White House by President Clinton.