- Council of the Great City Schools
- A Year in Review
2021 Year in Review
THE COUNCIL'S YEAR IN REVIEW
COUNCIL URGES PRESIDENT BIDEN TO ENLIST URBAN SCHOOL DISTRICTS IN VACCINATION PLANS
In January, the Council sent a letter to letter to President Biden, urging the Administration to enlist the nation’s big-city public school systems in its nationwide vaccination strategy and planning. The Council pointed out that the nation’s school districts have strategic, relevant assets including “school buildings in every corner of our communities,” school buses and drivers that could be deployed, sophisticated communications systems, school nurses and school custodians who could be used to prepare and clean vaccination sites.
COUNCIL UNVEILS REOPENING SCHOOLS TRACKER
In January, the Council partnered with Education Week to track how students in the nation’s 75 largest urban public-school districts are learning. The tracker provided up-to-date information on whether the nation’s largest big-city school systems are offering remote instruction, hybrid instruction or in-person learning. And in September, the Council created another online tracker to provide information on how districts handled vaccine, mask, and coronavirus testing requirements for the 2021-22 school year.
EAST BATON ROUGE JOINS THE COUNCIL
In March, East Baton Rouge Parish School System joined the Council, increasing the organization’s membership to 77 school districts. The district is the second largest school system in Louisiana, serving more than 41,000 students.
COUNCIL CREATES NATIONAL TASK FORCE TO HELP URBAN SCHOOL DISTRICTS
In March, the Council created a national task force composed of 20 superintendents, school board members, chief academic officers, and other experts from the nation’s largest big-city school systems to develop guidance for and aid to urban school systems in the planning and use of federal funds to effectively build the long-term capacity they need to continue their improvement.
RAY HART NAMED TO LEAD THE COUNCIL
In April, Ray Hart was named the new executive director of the Council. Hart, the former research director for the Council, replaced Michael Casserly, who was with the Council for 44 years, nearly 30 years of which he has served as the Council’s Executive Director.
VIRTUAL LEGISLATIVE/POLICY CONFERENCE
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona; congressmen Robert “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.,) and Richard Neal (D-Mass.); award-winning journalist Bob Woodward; and Greta Massetti, chief of the Field Epidemiology and Prevention Branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, addressed urban educators at the Council’s Legislative/Policy Conference, March 20-22.
LEGACY AWARD PRESENTED TO MICHAEL CASSERLY
In March, former Council Executive Director Michael Casserly received the first-ever Dr. Michael Casserly Legacy Award for Educational Courage and Justice at the Council’s virtual Legislative/Policy Conference. The award will be presented annually to a person who has made outstanding contributions in the field of K-12 urban education and comes with a $10,000 scholarship sponsored by Curriculum Associates.
NEW BLUEPRINT TO HELP URBAN SCHOOL DISTRICTS SPEND COVID-19 RELIEF FUNDS
In June, the Council released a new toolkit, Investing American Rescue Plan Funds Strategically and Effectively, Guidance for School Districts, to help urban school districts effectively spend new federal COVID-19 relief funds. The framework offers guidance, resources, and recommendations to the nation’s largest city public school systems and sets out overarching goals for the use of funds; articulates broad investment strategies; defines principles for the effective use of funds; and asks a series of questions that leaders and stakeholders should ask themselves as they embark on planning, implementation, and evaluation efforts.
NATION'S BIG-CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS RAMP UP EFFORTS TO VACCINATE STUDENTS
Since the Covid-19 vaccine was approved for students 5 years and older, the Council and its 74-member school districts has continued its ongoing efforts to get children vaccinated, including launching campaigns, partnering with local health agencies to provide mobile and pop up clinics and implementing extensive outreach efforts to students as well as their families. The Council is also continuing to partner with pharmacies in the federal retail pharmacy program that will provide easier access for families to get their younger students vaccinated and will continue to work with the U.S. Department of Education and the White House to increase the number of vaccinated students in the nation.
NEW STUDY SHOWS STUDENTS IN LARGE CITY SCHOOLS ARE OVERCOMING THE EFFECTS OF POVERTY AND MAKING ACADEMIC PROGRESS
In July, the Council released a study, Mirrors or Windows: How Well Do Large City Public Schools Overcome the Effects of Poverty and Other Barriers?, that found urban school students are making significant progress academically. The study used the last ten years of data in reading and mathematics at the fourth- and eighth-grade levels from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to answer the question of whether schools are windows of opportunity – and help overcome poverty and other barriers – or they are mirrors of society’s inequities.
COUNCIL AWARDS CGCS-BERNARD HARRIS SCHOLARSHIPS
Four 2021 graduating high school seniors from districts represented by the Council received the 2021 CGCS-Bernard Harris Math and Science Scholarship. Now in its third year, the scholarship was created by former NASA astronaut Dr. Bernard Harris, the first African-American to walk in space, to encourage and assist promising students of diverse backgrounds who plan to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) studies after high school. The $5,000 scholarships were given to two African-American and two Hispanic seniors for continued education in a STEM-related field.
NEW LEADERSHIP AT COUNCIL BEGINS
On July 1, Barbara Jenkins, superintendent of Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Fla., became chair of the Council’s Board of Directors for a one-year term. Kelly Gonez, school board president for the Los Angeles Unified School District, became chair-elect, stepping up from the Council’s secretary-treasurer post and William Hite Jr., superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, was elected to the secretary-treasurer post.
COUNCIL RELEASES REPORT ON SCHOOL-LOCATED COVID-19 VACCINATION EVENTS
The Council collaborated with the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy, the COVID Collaborative, National Rural Education Association, Rural Schools Collaborative, and AASA: The School Superintendents Association to develop an issue brief, Innovative Strategies for Leveraging Schools as COVID-19 Vaccination Sites. The brief featured case studies from three Council member school districts: Detroit Community School District, Florida’s Orange County Schools in Orlando; and the Los Angeles Unified School District.
COUNCIL AND HUSCH BLACKWELL WIN AWARD FOR "BEST BRIEF"
A team of Husch Blackwell attorneys and the legal, legislative and research staff from the Council won the 2021 Steinhilber Award for “Best Brief” from the Education Law Association. The Husch Blackwell team wrote an amicus curiae brief in support of a preliminary injunction in the case of Washington v. DeVos on behalf of Husch Blackwell client CGCS. The brief successfully argued that the United States Department of Education had attempted to unlawfully rewrite important emergency legislation to support its own spending priorities rather than those of Congress.
HISTORIAN, PHILANTHROPIST, AND 2021 NATIONAL TEACHER OF THE YEAR ADDRESSED URBAN SCHOOL LEADERS
Historian, author, and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Henry Louis Gates Jr.; Priscilla Chan, co-founder & co-CEO of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative; and Juliana Urtubey, the 2021 National Teacher of the Year; addressed urban educators at the Council’s virtual 65th Annual Fall Conference, Oct. 19-23. A national town hall meeting was also held sponsored by the Chan Zuckerberg Institute titled “Amplifying the Voice of Students: From Critical Conversations to Concrete Actions.” The town hall was moderated by veteran journalist Ray Suarez and featured student representatives from Charlotte, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Baltimore, Nashville, Hawaii, and Portland, Ore., discussing how they work to bring student perspective to the board of education in their school districts.
MIAMI SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER NAMED TOP EDUCATOR
Marta Pérez, a member of the Miami-Dade County school board since 1998, was the winner of the Green-Garner Award at the Council’s 32nd Annual “Urban Educator of the Year” virtual award ceremony. With a $10,000 scholarship sponsored by Scholastic, the top prize is presented by the Council each year in memory of Richard R. Green, the first African American chancellor of the New York City school system, and businessman Edward Garner, who served on the Denver school board.
PHILADELPHIA STUDENT IS FIRST RECIPIENT OF $10,000 SCHOLARSHIP
Londyn Edwards, a 2021 graduate of Science Leadership High School in Philadelphia, was named the first recipient of the Dr. Michael Casserly Legacy Award for Educational Courage and Justice Scholarship sponsored by Curriculum Associates. Edwards used the scholarship to become the first in her family to go to college, attending Drexel University in Pennsylvania.
COUNCIL AND SCHOLASTIC ANNOUNCE RICHARD M. ROBINSON LITERACY CHAMPION AWARD
In November, the Council in collaboration with Scholastic, announced the School District of Philadelphia as the inaugural winner of the Richard M. Robinson Literacy Champion Award. Named in honor of the late Scholastic Chairman and CEO, Richard (Dick) Robinson, this annual award recognizes a CGCS member school district for demonstrated progress in advancing reading achievement.
A CONVERSATION ON HOW DISTRICTS ARE USING ARP FUNDS
In December, the Council hosted a zoom conversation with superintendents, chief academic officers, and chiefs of schools to discuss ways they are planning and using American Rescue Plans (ARP) funds to boost instructional capacity and outcomes in their respective school districts. The joint conversations provided district leaders the opportunity to share best practices about the primary instructional investment(s) they are making with ARP funds to address unfinished learning and to build staff capacity.
Our 2021 Reports
- Student Outcomes Focused Governance: A Continuous Improvement Framework
- Managing for Results in America's Great City Schools, 2021, Results from Fiscal Year 2019-2020
- Connecting 3Ls™ to English Language Development Standards & Frameworks
- Annual Report, 2020-2021
- Advancing Instruction and Leadership in the Nation’s Great City Schools: A Framework for Developing, Implementing, and Sustaining High-Quality Professional Development
- Academic Key Performance Indicators, 2021 Report
- Investing American Rescue Plan Funds Strategically and Effectively, Guidance for School Districts
- Mirrors or Windows: How Well Do Large City Public Schools Overcome the Effects of Poverty and Other Barriers?