Council of the Great City Schools Green-Garner Award is given in memory of urban school leaders
The Council of the Great City Schools awarded Houston Independent School District Superintendent Terry Grier the 2014 Urban Educator of the Year award Thursday in Milwaukee during its annual fall conference.
Grier was recognized for his ability to accelerate academic gains that produce a higher graduation rate, especially among African American and Hispanic students, and for substantially decreasing the student dropout rate, said Council Executive Director Michael Casserly.
“Superintendent Terry Grier knows how to confront challenges in urban education and has the commitment, experience, and energy to overcome the odds to provide a quality education for students,” said Casserly.
The award is given to a school leader who demonstrates success in the areas of leadership and governance, has been instrumental in improving student achievement districtwide, improved the public’s confidence in his or her school district, and who embodies professionalism and has been involved in the council.
“This is a team award that once again demonstrates that our principals, teachers and staff have done a phenomenal job of carrying out the vision set forth by the HISD Board of Education,” said Dr. Grier.
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Under Grier’s leadership, the district’s dropout rate is down 44 percentage points, with vast improvement among Hispanic and African-American students, who have seen decreases of 54 percent and 31 percent respectively.
“Dr. Grier has moved the needle on education in HISD in a huge way; from financial awards to recognitions, which translate to improved teaching and learning for our students. HISD is a stronger district with him at the helm, promoting higher levels of achievement for everyone.” said Board Member Greg Meyers.
In 2013, HISD was awarded the prestigious Broad Prize for Urban Education which recognizes the nation’s top big-city school district for consistently making strong gains in student achievement and comes with $550,000 in college scholarships. Additionally, HISD won nearly $30 million in competitive federal Race to the Top funding last year, which is supporting the district’s work to connect students’ coursework to real-world career pathways. The learning model lets students begin college early and encourages career readiness through project-based learning. Students explore aptitudes and life interests in middle school and focus on preparedness for higher education and careers in high school.
Grier has also led HISD through several key initiatives:
- The district has increased a college culture by expanding access to college-level Advanced Placement courses at every HISD high school. The change has led to a 74 percent increase in AP exams passed with a score of 3 or higher. Scholarship dollars awarded to HISD seniors in 2014 were at an all-time high of $254 million, up 213 percent from 2007.
- The increases in participation in Advanced Placement exams for all students and specifically for Hispanic students were the highest among other urban districts. Between 2009 and 2012, the average annual increase in the AP participation rate by Houston’s Hispanic students was five times greater than the average among the 75 Broad Prize-eligible districts.
- Nearly $18 million was raised from private donors to fund a turnaround initiative for HISD’s 20 lowest-performing schools. The initiative, called Apollo 20, helped students in those schools achieve academic gains on-par with the nation’s top-performing charter schools.
- The district won 69 percent voter approval for the largest school-rebuilding bond program in Texas history. Forty schools, including 29 high schools, are being repaired or rebuilt, and new IT infrastructure is being constructed throughout the district.
- HISD seamlessly welcomed about 7,000 North Forest community students in 2013 after Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams ordered their former district closed.
- As of this fall, HISD has implemented two phases of its PowerUp initiative that will give all 65,000 HISD high school students their own laptops by 2016.
Dr. Grier was chosen from a field of five finalists including Miami-Dade County Superintendent Albert Carvalho; R. Stephen Green, head of Kansas City, Mo., public schools; Valerie Silva of the St. Paul public schools; and Eric Gordon, chief executive officer of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Former Superintendent Rod Paige won the award in 1999.
In addition to the recognition, Grier will receive a $10,000 college scholarship to present to a student.
The Urban Educator of the Year award alternates every other year between a superintendent and a school board member. It is given in honor of Richard R. Green, the first African-American chancellor of the New York City school system, and Edward Garner, who served on the Denver school board.