The 2021 award nominations window is closed.
The award recipients will be announced this summer. Please email Sara Shelton, director of state relations, with any questions in the meantime.
James Bryant Conant Award
Named for the co-founder of Education Commission of the States and former president of Harvard University, the James Bryant Conant Award recognizes outstanding individual contributions to American education. The award was established in 1977 to memorialize Conant, a pivotal figure in the education reforms of the 1950s and ‘60s that continue to shape schools today. The honor is bestowed upon individuals whose efforts and service have created a pronounced and lasting influence on American education and have demonstrated a commitment to improving education across the country in significant ways such as:
- Provided leadership on groundbreaking task forces or committees.
- Published works and/or conducted research that profoundly influenced thinking on public education in the United States and/or had a substantial impact on policy.
- Shepherded groundbreaking education reform through the legislative process.
Demonstrated exemplary service as a public figure or elected official deeply involved in improving education for all.
Watch a video of Conant, originator of the idea of an interstate compact on education.
2020: Philip Uri Treisman
Philip Uri Treisman is University Distinguished Teaching Professor, professor of mathematics and professor of public affairs at The University of Texas at Austin. He is the founder and executive director of the University’s Charles A. Dana Center, which works on the equity-minded improvement of American mathematics and science education at scale.
Treisman is a founder and member of the governing board of Transforming Post-Secondary Education in Mathematics. He serves as a representative of the American Mathematical Society to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (Education, Section Q) and as a senior advisor to the Conference Board of Mathematical Sciences Research Advisory Group. In addition, he serves as a member of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s Roundtable on Data Science Postsecondary Education.
Treisman has served as a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Education Commission of the States since 2013. He served as founding chairman of the Expert Advisory Board for Strong Start to Finish, a joint initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Kresge Foundation and Ascendium Education Group that works nationally to ensure that all students get a strong start in their first year of college and finish with the skills they need to thrive. Treisman has served on the STEM working group of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, the 21st-Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges of the American Association of Community Colleges, and the Commission on Mathematics and Science Education of the Carnegie Corporation of New York Institute for Advanced Study. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the International Society for Design and Development in Education.
Treisman’s research and professional interests span mathematics and science education, education policy, social and developmental psychology, community service, and volunteerism. For his leadership of national education initiatives, he has received the Mathematical Association of America’s Yueh-Gin Gung and Dr. Charles Y. Hu Award for Distinguished Service to Mathematics (2019), the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics’ Ross Taylor/Glenn Gilbert National Leadership Award (2016), and the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges’ Mathematics Excellence Award (2016).
For Treisman’s work in supporting high achievement in mathematics of students from groups historically underrepresented in STEM professions, he received the 1987 Charles A. Dana Award for Pioneering Achievement in American Higher Education. In 1992, he was named a MacArthur Fellow.
2019: AJ Crabill
Raised in and out of foster care from birth until high school, Crabill bounced around enough that he attended 11 schools prior to high school graduation. He attended urban, suburban and rural schools and private, public and parochial schools; lived with white families and families of color and in racist communities and inclusive communities; and experienced loving homes and homelessness. Guided by the idea that student outcomes don’t change until adult behaviors change, he has devoted much of his adult life to advocating for the well-being of our nation’s most vulnerable youth.
In his role as deputy commissioner of governance at the Texas Education Agency, Crabill led the creation of Lone Star Governance, a governance framework, workshop series and coaching system. Lone Star Governance distills national research on student achievement into an applicable framework for local school board action. The framework allows school boards to evaluate their progress toward and hone their focus on improving student outcomes. To support implementation of the new template and actions, Crabill provided group training and individualized coaching for local boards and their communities.
2018: Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam
Gov. Bill Haslam has earned a reputation as the education governor for his innovation around and commitment to educational attainment in Tennessee. He started the Drive to 55, a comprehensive effort to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or credential to 55 percent by 2025, which will assist the state in meeting its future workforce demands. Haslam created Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect, scholarship programs that offer two years of postsecondary education free of tuition and fees to high school graduates and adults, respectively, who have not yet obtained a degree. Tennessee became the first state in the nation to implement this practice, and 18 other states have since created similar programs. From 2011 to 2016, Tennessee was one of the fastest improving states in the nation in K-12 student performance and remains a leader in student progress. In 2016-17, Tennessee’s high school graduation rate rose to 89 percent — the highest on record for the state. Additionally, entering college freshmen remediation rates have dropped by more than 12 percentage points since 2011.
2017: Lowell Milken
For more than 30 years, Lowell Milken has been leading the Milken Family Foundation as it continues to fulfill its mission to support individuals and innovation in not only education, but also in medical research and public health. Milken’s education research, in-person classroom visits with teachers and students, and development of prominent and robust initiatives highlight both his professional and personal interest in and commitment to advancing education. In his ongoing support of education practice and programs, Milken has created initiatives that provide educators and students with opportunities allowing for increased success both in the present and future. The Milken Educator Awards, celebrating its 30th anniversary, have recognized exemplary early- to mid-career educators through financial prizes and a professional network dedicated to strengthening education. The National Institute for Excellence in Teaching advances educator effectiveness and student achievement, impacting more than 200,000 educators and 2.5 million students daily. And the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes engages students in project-based learning to discover individuals in history who have made a profound difference in the lives of others.
2016: Sal Khan
In 2008, Khan founded the Khan Academy – a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere. Since its creation, Khan Academy’s readily available content has grown to include more than 6,500 videos, accessed by more than 10 million people seeking knowledge to enrich their lives. The Khan Academy provides educational access to a broad range of subjects and offers customized lesson plans and assessments, creating an interactive and personalized learning experience. By emphasizing learning, rather than teaching, Khan’s approach has greatly impacted not only how information is delivered, but also the way in which children and adults learn in America. His commitment to providing a high-quality education and his work to ensure that anyone, anywhere has the knowledge and tools needed to help support a successful future demonstrates his leadership in the advancement of educational attainment.
2015: William Sanders
William Sanders is a statistician, former professor and director of the Value-Added Assessment Center at the University of Tennessee, and the former leader of the EVAAS group at SAS Institute, Inc. He developed the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS), also known as the Educational Value-Added Assessment System (EVAAS), a method for measuring a teacher’s effect on student performance by tracking the progress of students against themselves over the course of their school career with their assignment to various teachers’ classes. “Dr. William Sanders has been a national leader in value-added assessments and his work has been a key policy discussion in states across the nation. His achievements are a perfect fit for the James Bryant Conant Award, and especially timely given the 50th anniversary of Education Commission of the States,” said Jeremy Anderson, president of ECS. Sanders stands for a hopeful and controversial view: teacher effectiveness dwarfs all other factors as a predictor of student academic growth. His position challenges decades of assumptions that student family life, income or ethnicity has more effect on student learning. Sanders believes, in brief, that teachers matter most. His work is the foundation of the entire accountability system in Tennessee. Since 1992, it’s been changing the way that teachers assess students, the way that principals assess teachers and the way that superintendents assess principals. “With regard to student academic progress, the effectiveness of adults within buildings is more important than the mailing addresses of their students,” Sanders said. With a lifetime of work dedicated to enabling citizens and lawmakers to better assess how effectively teachers teach, William Sanders epitomizes the spirit of James Bryant Conant.
2014: Marc Tucker
Marc Tucker, founder, president and CEO of the National Center on Education and the Economy, has spearheaded some of the most important education reforms of the last 25 years. He first became a major influence on education in the 1970s while he was director of the U.S. Department of Education’s policy research office. He worked on issues such as education equity, education finance, and assessment and instructional practices, and he frequently testified before Congress. Curious about the relationship between the nation’s education performance and the changing world economy, Tucker organized the Carnegie Task Force on Teaching as a Profession. He wrote the task force’s influential report A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century, which led to the creation of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. In 1988, Tucker established the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE). He later directed the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce and was the lead author of the follow-up reportTough Choices or Tough Times. The report issued an urgent call for upgrading education and training in the U.S., including a major restructuring of the nation’s educational priorities to focus on high standards for all students. Tucker’s influence has solidified through his leadership of other major initiatives and school reform projects, including the National Alliance for Restructuring Education, America’s Choice, the National Institute of School Leadership, the Center on International Education Benchmarking and Excellence for All. His publications garner national and international attention. At the request of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Tucker recently produced the report Strong Performers and Successful Reformers: Lessons from PISA for the United States. He also edited Surpassing Shanghai: An Agenda for American Education Built on the World’s Leading Systems, providing answers to the question of how the United States can compete with top-performing countries such as Canada, Finland and Singapore. Over the last four decades, Tucker’s work has reached lawmakers, education leaders and educators around the world with his vision for an equitable education system capable of giving all students a high-quality education. For his lifetime of dedication to improving the lives of children, Marc Tucker epitomizes the spirit of James Bryant Conant and is deserving of this year’s award.
2013: Gene Wilhoit
Gene Wilhoit, former Executive Director of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and former Kentucky Commissioner of Education, has dedicated his career to serving education at the local, state, and national levels. He started out as a social studies teacher and principal in Ohio and Indiana. He transitioned to posts at the state level in Indiana and at the national level as a special assistant in the U.S. Department of Education. He later served as the executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education and as the chief of the Arkansas Department of Education. As Kentucky’s commissioner of education between 2000 and 2006, Wilhoit focused on the key factors that could change education for each and every child. He oversaw finance reform, boosted standards, improved assessment and accountability systems, advocated for development of the non-cognitive and meta-cognitive skills necessary for career success, and led the development of data systems to help monitor progress. He brought state leaders together to work collectively and seek agreement on how best to solve these difficult problems. Using his exemplary skills as a facilitator and collaborator, one of Wilhoit’s most significant achievements at CCSSO was his leadership on the development and adoption of the Common Core State Standards. Working with the National Governors Association, he helped build consensus on this new generation of rigorous, internationally benchmarked standards aimed at ensuring that what students learn in math and language arts does not vary significantly across states. Ever the dedicated public servant, Wilhoit has not truly retired. He is the executive director of the new National Center for Innovation in Education at the University of Kentucky, and is joining Student Achievement Partners as a partner. For his lifetime commitment to improving public education for all students and preparing them for life after high school, Gene Wilhoit encompasses the passion and values of the late Dr. Conant and is deserving of the 2013 James Bryant Conant award.
2012: E.D. Hirsch
Dr. E.D. Hirsch, Jr. is the founder of the Core Knowledge Foundation and a Professor Emeritus of Education and Humanities at the University of Virginia. While doing research on written composition, Hirsch was “shocked into education reform.” He discovered that while the relative readability of a text was an important factor in determining a student’s ability to comprehend a passage, an even more important factor was the student’s background knowledge. From this research, Hirsch developed his groundbreaking concept of “cultural literacy”—the idea that reading comprehension requires not just formal decoding skills but also wide-ranging background knowledge. In 1986, he founded the Core Knowledge Foundation to promote this concept, and a year later published the best-selling book, Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know. Today there are over 800 Core Knowledge schools — public, charter, and independent—which teach all or part of the Core Knowledge Sequence. However, the strongest evidence of Hirsch’s impact can be seen in the development of the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts, which rest on the intellectual underpinnings of his work. With its call to place subject matter reading at the heart of language arts instruction, stay on topics within and across grades, and to support standards with a coherent, sequential curriculum, the Common Core State Standards represent the fullest expression and acceptance of Hirsch’s ideas and insights. Hirsch has authored several other acclaimed books on education reform, including The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them, The Knowledge Deficit and The Making of Americans, solidifying his reputation as one of the most influential education reformers of our time.
2011: Ted Kolderie
Ted Kolderie is co-founder of Education|Evolving and is recognized nationally for his work on K-12 education policy and innovation since the early 1980s. He worked with the committee of the Citizens League that in late 1988 proposed “Chartered Schools,” then with legislators and Minnesota Commissioner of Education Tom Nelson on the design and implementation of the country’s first charter school law in 1991. Through the early 1990s he worked with legislators and citizens on the design and improvement of charter legislation in more than 25 states, including California, Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, New Jersey and Ohio. In 2004, he and Joe Graba co-founded Education|Evolving to be a nonpartisan policy group working in Minnesota and nationally on a strategy for change and improvement in K-12 education. He has written for a variety of publications and has talked about the need for innovation in learning with organizations such as the National Education Association, the National School Boards Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Business Roundtable, the National Education Goals Panel, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Progressive Policy Institute. Before entering education policy, Kolderie worked on urban and metropolitan affairs and on questions of system design in the public sector. He started his career as a reporter and editorial writer with the Minneapolis Star and Tribune. He was executive director of the Citizens League in the Twin Cities area and in the 1980s was a senior fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. Kolderie graduated with a B.A. from Carleton College and a Master of Public Affairs degree from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs at Princeton University.
2010: Linda Darling-Hammond
Linda Darling-Hammond founded and co-directs the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education to foster research, policy, and practice strategies for educational quality and equality. She also founded and oversees the School Redesign Network, which works on issues of school and district reform, and leadership development in support of powerful and equitable curriculum, instruction and assessment. Between 1994 and 2001, Darling-Hammond served as executive director of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, chaired by former North Carolina Governor James B. Hunt. The blue-ribbon panel’s 1996 report, What Matters Most: Teaching for America’s Future, led to sweeping policy changes affecting teaching and schooling. Darling-Hammond began her career as a public school teacher and has since dedicated her professional life to improving educational policy at the national, state and local level. Beginning with her work as senior social scientist and director of the RAND Corporation’s education policy program, and extending through appointments at Columbia’s Teachers College and Stanford, she has conducted research on a wide range of policy issues affecting teaching and schooling while advising policymakers at all levels of government. She led President Obama’s education policy transition team in 2008-09. Darling-Hammond received her B.A. (magna cum laude) from Yale University and her doctorate in Urban Education (with highest distinction) from Temple University. She is the author or editor of 16 books and more than 300 journal articles, book chapters and monographs on issues of policy and practice.
2008: Ron Wolk
Ron Wolk is co-founder of The Chronicle of Higher Education and founder of Education Week. Wolk spent the first three years of his career as a newspaper reporter and magazine editor. He served as assistant to President Milton S. Eisenhower at Johns Hopkins University and shortly after, worked with Clark Kerr in Berkeley as assistant director of the Carnegie Commission on the Future of Higher Education. Wolk also started and served as editor of Teacher Magazine. In 1996, he established Quality Counts, a special annual report on the condition of standards-based reform in all 50 states. He currently serves as a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Urban Education in Rhode Island; chairman of the Board of Editorial Projects in Education, publisher of Education Week; and chairman of the Board of the Big Picture Company.
2007: Gaston Caperton
Formerly as governor of West Virginia and founding director of the Institute on Education and Governance at Columbia University, and presently as president of the College Board, Caperton has been an extraordinary education statesman. His contributions to education, at the state and national levels, have been truly outstanding. After serving as governor, Caperton went on to become the founding director of the Institute on Education and Governance at Teachers College, Columbia University. Anxious to help his fellow governors with education policymaking, he established education policy seminars for governors and their staffs through the Institute. His national impact on education increased with his appointment as president of the College Board in 1999. He has worked hard to expand access to Advanced Placement courses and examinations throughout the nation, including partnerships with historically black colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving institutions to increase the number of Advanced Placement teachers of color. He has also been unwavering in his support of equity in tuition and financial aid policies and programs, and, in 2005, created the College Board’s Task Force on College Access for Students from Low-Income Backgrounds to address this issue. Under his leadership, the College Board has also broadened its mission to serve students from middle grades through college completion.
2006: Nancy S. Grasmick
Under Nancy Grasmick’s leadership over the past 15 years, Maryland has been a trailblazer and a top performer in areas ranging from standards-based school improvement to strategic planning to the education of children with disabilities. She is nationally respected for her leadership in building consensus among parents and educators on issues and programs for special education. These collaborations have led to an innovative model of funding for special education in Maryland that is systematically integrated with the state accountability system. Among her many accomplishments as superintendent are the establishment of a statewide Parent Advisory Council and the creation of a program that brings high-performing principals from other school districts into Baltimore City to run schools and train new leaders. She is a member of the President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education and is the only K-12 education representative on the Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21st Century. She also served on a 20-member panel appointed by the National Academies that last fall issued the influential report Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future. Over the years, Grasmick has served ECS with distinction as a member of the Steering Committee and various standing committees and as an ECS officer.
2005: Sharon Lynn Kagan
Sharon Lynn Kagan has been instumental in defining and building early childhood care and education as a critically important public policy field, and as the foundation for a lifetime of education and learning. Throughout her career, she has coupled research and policy to increase public understanding of, and investment in, the programs and services that support young children and their families. Kagan, more than any other person, has defined what a system of early childhood education should include. Her work has contributed to bringing together diverse stakeholders in the early childhood field — child care, Head Start, school-based pre-kindergarten, and family child care and support. Kagan is currently professor adjunct at Yale University’s Child Study Center, where she has been engaged in teaching and research since 1980. She has published more than 150 articles and written or edited 12 books focused on issues such as the development of policy for children and families, family support, early childhood pedagogy, strategies for collaboration and service integraion, and the evaluation of social programs. Over the years, Kagan has advised and mentored presidents, governors, legislators, foundation officials, teachers, graduate students and parents. She has served as a consultant to the White House, Congress, federal agencies, the National Governors Association and numerous states, foundations, corporations and professional associations.
2004: Thurgood Marshall
During his 24 years on the bench, Thurgood Marshall was an ardent supporter of individual rights, freedom of the press and due process, and he never waivered in his devotion to ending discrimination. But many believe his greatest contribution resulted from his role as the principal architect of the stategy that demolished the legal basis for segregation in America. In the landmark case Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, the NAACP legal team, headed by Marshall, persuaded the Supreme Court to overturn the “separate-but-equal” doctrine that had been the law of the land since 1896. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Marshall to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, where he served until being selected three years later as U.S. Solicitor General by President Lyndon Johnson. The crowning achievement of his career came in 1967, when he became the first African-American to be elevated to the Supreme Court.
2004: John H. Stelle
The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 — better known as the GI Bill of Rights — ranks among the most progressive and beneficial laws enacted by any nation. During the past six decades, the law has made possible the investment of billions of dollars in eduation and training for millions of veterans. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the GI Bill into law on June 22, 1944, it was the culmination of a remarkably well-executed effort in which a former Illinois governor named John H. Stelle played a crucial role. Stelle, a World War I veteran and past national commander of the American Legion, quarterbacked a team of Legion officials that, in the space of just six months, designed and put forth the main features of the GI Bill, organized massive public support and shepherded its successful passage through Congress. Stelle’s leadership and behind-the-scenes negotiating skills are widely credited for the legislation’s surviving stubborn pockets of resistance, intense debate and a conference committee deadlock that nearly scuttled the bill at the 11th hour.
2003: Roy Romer
Since July 2000 when he became superintendent of the nation’s second-largest and perhaps the most-decentralized, lowest-performing school system, Roy Romer has improved instruction in Los Angeles’ elementary schools, where test scores in reading and math have climbed above the national average, results not seen there in decades. When he served as Colorado’s governor from 1986 to 1998, Romer was the driving force behind many initiatives and laws that improved education for the state’s children, as well as its adults, including: the “First Impressions” initiative that improved and made more accessible high-quality early childhood care and education; the Colorado Preschool Program that helps at-risk preschoolers prepare for school; the Colorado Child Care Resource and Referral System that helps families find quality child care; the Governor’s Task Force on Early Childhood Professional Standards that defined what every child care provider needs to know and be able to do to be considered highly qualified; a law that made Colorado one of the first states to establish standards and a statewide assessment that measured them; authorization for school choice and charter schools; and the Internet-based Western Governors University (WGU), which offers competency-based courses from dozens of the nation’s colleges, universities and corporations. (He worked with Utah Governor Mike Leavitt to establish WGU.) Additionally, while governor, Romer served as chairman of both the Education Commission of the States and the National Education Goals Panel. He was co-chairman of the National Council on Education Standards and Testing, and director of the National Assessment Governing Board and of Achieve.
2002: Robert P. Moses
Founder of the Algebra Project, Robert P. Moses is a prime example of how one concerned individual can help pioneer new approaches to educating children. In 1982, Moses was invited by his daughter’s eighth-grade teacher at the Martin Luther King School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to help several students who were struggling to learn algebra. His success in producing the school’s first students to pass a citywide algebra examination and qualify for 9th-grade honors geometry laid the groundwork for what is today known as the Algebra Project. The Algebra Project, which has spread to 22 school districts in 17 states, is an interactive curriculum and teacher-training program designed to help disadvantaged inner-city and rural students better understand abstract mathematical concepts. Moses taught math in the New York City public schools from 1958 to 1961, was a civil-rights organizer in Mississippi in the 1960s and worked for the Ministry of Education in Tanzania from 1969 to 1975 before returning to the United States to pursue doctoral studies in philosophy at Harvard University. Moses, who was a MacArthur Fellow from 1982 through 1987, has received numerous public-service awards, and his work has been featured in the national media.
2001: Fred (“Mister”) Rogers
For three decades, Fred Rogers has provided this country and the world with a shining example of how television can be a positive force in educating and nurturing children. His half-hour PBS television series, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood — the longest-running television program on public television when it ended late 2001 — has entertained, educated and inspired parents, educators and children. Rogers attended both the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Child Development. He was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1963. In 1968, Rogers was appointed chairman of the forum on Mass Media and Child Development of the White House Conference on Youth. He has received Emmy Awards and many others throughout his career. He chairs Family Communications, Inc.
2000: John Goodlad
Starting as a teacher in a rural, one-room school in Canada, John Goodlad since has been involved in an array of education reform programs and projects, and has engaged in large-scale studies of education change, schooling and teacher education. At the age of 79, in addition to advancing a comprehensive program of research and development directed to the simultaneous renewal of schooling and teacher education, Goodlad continues to inquire about education’s mission in a democratic society. He has authored, co-authored or edited more than 30 books and numerous chapters, papers and articles; he also has received many distinguished awards. Goodlad has taught at all grade levels and in a variety of institutions. He is professor emeritus of education and co-director of the Center for Educational Renewal at the University of Washington in Seattle and president of the independent Institute for Educational Inquiry.
1999: Frank Newman
Frank Newman has had an outstanding career in business and education, with a national reputation as a leader for higher education reform. He chaired the first U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare task force on reforming higher education, from which the 1971 Newman Report was issued. He then authored The Second Newman Report with further recommendations for higher education reform. Newman was president of ECS for 14 years before leaving to serve as Distinguished Lecturer at Columbia University’s Teachers College and accept an appointment at Brown University’s Center for Public Policy and American Institutions. Before joining ECS, he was president of the University of Rhode Island from 1974-83 and Presidential Fellow at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Currently, Newman is Visiting Professor of Public Policy and Project Director at the A. Alfred Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions at Brown University, and director of The Futures Project: Policy for Higher Education in a Changing World.
1998: Robert Slavin
The well-known initiatives developed by Robert Slavin (in partnership with his wife, Nancy Madden) have garnered national attention for improving student achievement, especially among at-risk children. Slavin’s classroom beginnings were as a special education teacher. From this experience, he developed Success for All, which emphasizes the importance of reading, and Roots and Wings, which tackles the entire school, from professional development to accountability for results. Slavin now serves as co-director of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed at Risk.
1997: Claiborne Pell
In 1972, U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island authored and witnessed passage of legislation that created Basic Educational Opportunity Grants, renamed “Pell” grants to honor the senator. He also established the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He initiated and helped pass many other specialized bills in the areas of drunk driving, high-speed rail transportation services, environmental education, libraries, historic preservation, education for the handicapped and the economy. He has received honorary doctorates from 50 colleges and universities and recorded some of his insights in two books, Power and Policy and Megalopolis Unbound. He also co-authored Challenge of the Seven Seas.
1996: John W. Gardner
John Gardner led a multi-faceted career, beginning as a psychology teacher at the University of California and then serving with the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Marine Corps. Gardner became president of Carnegie Corporation and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in 1955. He was U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare from 19965-68 before becoming chairman of the National Urban Coalition. In 1970, Gardner founded Common Cause, a nonpartisan citizens’ group committed to lobbying elected officials on national issues of mutual concern. He helped found and served as chairman for Independent Sector, a national forum for volunteer organizations. He has served as a consultant or member of many government agencies and task forces, and has published many books and papers. Before his death at age 89 in February 2002, Gardner was a consulting professor at Stanford University’s School of Education in California.
1995: Richard W. Riley
Richard W. Riley was U.S. Secretary of Education during the Clinton administration. A major accomplishment was passage of the Education Improvement Act (EIA), an extensive program built through a strong coalition of business people, educators and parents. Academic standards, testing, teaching, management, accountability, business partnerships, school climate and higher education were among the areas affected by this sweeping change. Riley also served as South Carolina’s governor for two terms and has been highly commended for inspiring new thinking and taking bold actions that have led to positive solutions for America’s troubled education system. The Richard W. Riley College of Education at Rock Hill, South Carolina, is dedicated to preparing education leaders who are committed to a lifelong quest for excellence in teaching, learning and service to society.
1994: Ernest L. Boyer
Ernest Boyer became president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in 1979. He previously served as U.S. commissioner of education and chancellor of the state university of New York and held administrative posts in many of California’s higher education institutions. Additionally, he has been a senior fellow at several universities and a Fulbright scholar to India and Chile. Boyer was selected by his peers as the nation’s leading educator (1983) and named Educator of the Year by U.S. News and World Report(1990). Boyer died in 1995.
1993: Wilhelmina Delco
From 1974 until her retirement in January 1995, Wilhelmina Delco served in the Texas House of Representatives, where she greatly influenced the area of higher education. During the Clinton Administration, she was appointed by U.S. Education Secretary Richard W. Riley as chairwoman of the U.S. Department of Education’s National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity. She also was chairwoman of the Compact for Faculty Diversity, a consortium of the New England Board of Education, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education and the Southern Regional Education Board.
1992: Theodore R. Sizer
Theodore R. Sizer is founder and chairman of the Coalition of Essential Schools, a national network of schools and centers engaged in restructuring and redesigning schools to promote better student learning and achievement. He wrote Horace’s Compromise(1985), Horace’s School (1992) and Horace’s Hope (1996) which explore the ideas of the Essential school reform effort. He is university professor emeritus at Brown University where he served as chair of the Education Department from 1984 to 1989. Before coming to Brown, Sizer was professor and dean at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and headmaster of Phillips (Andover) Academy. Sizer and his wife are co-authors of the recently published book, The Students Are Watching: Schools and the Moral Contract. He currently is teaching a course on education policy at Brandeis University, as well as co-teaching a secondary school design course with Nancy Faust Sizer at Harvard University.
1991: James P. Comer
Since 1968, James Comer has been a Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine’s Child Study Center, which aims to bridge child psychiatry and education. He is perhaps best known for the founding of the Comer School Development Program in 1968, which promotes the collaboration of parents, educators and community to improve social, emotional and academic outcomes for children that, in turn, helps them achieve greater school success. Comer is a prolific writer and has authored seven books, more than 150 articles for Parents magazine and more than 300 syndicated articles on children’s health and development and race relations. He has served as a consultant to the Children’s Television Workshop, which produces Sesame Street andElectric Company, and was a consultant to the Public Committee on Mental Health chaired by Rosalyn Carter, as well as a member of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy. Since 1994, Comer has served as a member of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. He also has been associated with the National Launch Committee for Americorps and the National Campaign to Reduce Youth Violence. Comer has received many honorary degrees and awards during his career.
1990: No Award Given
No Award Given
1989: Fred M. Hechinger
Fred Hechinger has devoted much of his career as a reporter, columnist, editor, author and foundation executive to issues of education and policies affecting children and society. He has told education’s story through the pages of the Bridgeport (Connecticut)Herald, the Washington Post, the New York Herald Tribune, theBridgeport Sunday Herald, the New York Times, The Saturday Reviewand Harper’s, in addition to several books. Hechinger also taught at the City University of New York and the New School for Social Research. He is a senior adviser at Carnegie Corporation of New York. Hechinger died in 1995.
1988: Lamar Alexander
Lamar Alexander, former candidate for the U.S. presidency, has been governor of Tennessee, president of the University of Tennessee and U.S. Secretary of Education. He led the governors’ state-by-state better schools survey, Time for Results, and served as chairman of the task force that revised The Nation’s Report Card. He also served for two years on the National Assessment of Educational Progress board of directors. Alexander is a Goodman Visiting Professor of the Practice of Public Service at Harvard University. He lives in Nashville where he is chairman of the Salvation Army Initiative to help families move from welfare to work.
1987: Marian Wright Edelman
Founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), Marian Wright Edelman has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans for her entire professional life. She was the first black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar, founded the Washington Research Project, a public-interest law firm and parent body of the CDF, and has served as director of the Center for Law and Education at Harvard University. Edelman has received many honorary degrees and awards, including the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize, the Heinz Award and a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship. In 2000, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for her writings.
1986: Harold Howe II
Harold Howe began his career as a history teacher, then became a principal and superintendent of schools in Scarsdale, New York. He has been active in education for more than 50 years and shows no sign of slowing his interest or his pace. Howe was a U.S. Commissioner of Education under President Lyndon Johnson. He also held positions at the Learning Institute of North Carolina, the Ford Foundation, Duke University and Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, from which he retired in June 1994. At 82, when Howe pauses for a moment and says thoughtfully, “I think the economic division in society is rapidly becoming the most divisive force of all,” it is clear that this deeply generous and caring man is not flagging in his resolve to do what he can to be part of the national conversation about improving society in general and schooling in particular.
1985: Terrel H. Bell
Terrel H. Bell is best known for his leadership in establishing the National Commission on Excellence in Education and his contributions to the commission’s report, A Nation at Risk. He served as U.S. secretary of education; U.S. commissioner of education; superintendent of schools in Utah, Wyoming and Idaho; administrator at Utah State University and the University of Utah; and as a high school teacher. Bell worked to transform schools into high-tech institutions, which he believed was the next step needed to reform America’s education system. He died in 1996.
1985: David P. Gardner
David P. Gardner has been president and vice president of the nine-campus University of California, president of the University of Utah, and faculty member and chancellor at the University of California’s Santa Barbara campus. In 1981, he chaired the National Commission on Excellence in Education, whose 1983 report, A Nation at Risk, sparked the national effort to improve and reform American education. Gardner is president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and board member and director of several organizations.
1984: James B. Hunt Jr.
Currently an attorney in the firm of Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge & Rice, James Hunt served four terms as governor of North Carolina, and has been at the forefront of education reform in his state and in the nation. His Smart Start program received the prestigious Innovations in American Government Award from the Ford Foundation and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. In 1985, Hunt co-chaired with David Hamburg the “Committee of 50,” which led to the Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy and, eventually, to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. He also chairs the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future at Stanford University and is on the Board of Trustees of the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
1983: Carl Perkins
Carl Perkins, a Kentucky Congressman from 1949 until his death in 1984, chaired the highly influential House Education and Labor Committee. In that post, he was responsible for landmark education initiatives, including legislation supporting funding for vocational education. The Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act of 1998 was signed into law on October 31, 1998 and became effective in July 1, 1999.
1982: John Brademas
John Brademas, president emeritus of New York University (NYU), was NYU president from 1981 to 1992. From 1959 to 1981, he served as a U.S. representative from Indiana and earned a reputation for his leadership in education. In Congress, Brademas was a member of the Education and Labor Committee and chief architect of the International Education Act and National Institute of Education. He also was a major sponsor of the Higher Education Acts of 1972 and 1976. Under President Clinton’s administration, he was chairman of the Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, was chairman of the National Endowment for Democracy and a member of the Consultants’ Panel to the Comptroller General of the United States.
1981: Terry Sanford
Terry Sanford, Education Commission of the States’ co-founder, became president emeritus of Duke University in 1985 and spent much of his professional life working to improve the quality of America’s education system. Sanford served as U.S. senator, governor and state legislator in North Carolina, Children’s Television Workshop director, university president and attorney. He died in 1998.
1980: Ralph Tyler
According to the Board of Directors of the National Society for the Study of Education, “[Tyler’s] distinguished services to education.[spanning] more than six decades, and his remarkable achievements in many and varied fields, will be noted elsewhere again and again. He leaves a legacy that extends well beyond.education.” In 1954, Tyler co-founded and became first director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University and served as such for 13 years. He died in February 1994.
1979: Francis Keppel
Born the son of a Columbia College dean and Carnegie Corporation president, Francis Keppel spent all of his 73 years involved in education. His career posts included dean of the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, U.S. commissioner of education and assistant secretary for Health, Education and Welfare. He also directed the Aspen Institute’s education policy program, and was overseer and senior lecturer at Harvard University. Keppel died in 1990.
1978: Joan Ganz Cooney
Joan Ganz Cooney, co-founder of the Children’s Television Workshop (CTW) and originator of Sesame Street, served as CTW’s president and chief executive officer until 1990. She currently chairs the Sesame Workshop Board and sits on several corporate boards. Cooney has been a member of many special commissions and has received numerous awards for her outstanding achievements. Cooney was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995.
1977: Benjamin Mays
Benjamin Mays, noted for his achievements in faculty development, civil rights and combating declining enrollments, spent 27 years as president of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia; 12 years as president of the Atlanta School Board; and six years as dean of the Howard University School of Religion. He also was an English instructor at the State College of South Carolina, an ordained Baptist minister and author of several books. Mays died in 1984.
Frank Newman Award for State Innovation
The Frank Newman Award for State Innovation recognizes states and territories for enacting innovative education reforms or implementing innovative programs that go beyond marginal or incremental changes to improve student outcomes on a large scale. In 2005, the award was renamed in honor of the late Frank Newman, who served as president of Education Commission of the States for 14 years. The award recognizes a state for:
- Education improvement efforts that are replicable and hold valuable lessons for other states.
- Bold and courageous policies, including existing approaches with evidence of significant impact on student achievement in the state.
- Policies or programs that have bipartisan, broad-based support.
- 2020: Arkansas
- 2019: Idaho
- 2018: Tennessee
- 2017: Hawaii
- 2016: Mississippi
- 2015: Kentucky
- 2014: Illinois
- 2013: Delaware
- 2012: New Hampshire
- 2011: New England Consortium
- 2010: Ohio
- 2009: Tennessee
- 2008: North Dakota
- 2007: Alaska (for multiple initiatives)
- 2006: Kentucky (Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 and other initiatives)
- 2005: Florida and Utah (co-winners, for multiple initiatives)
- 2004: North Carolina (NC TEACH) and South Carolina (The Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement)
- 2003: Maryland (Visionary Panel for Better Schools)
- 2002: Alabama (Alabama Reading Initiative) and Texas (Texas Reading Initiative)
- 2001: Georgia – Universal Preschool Program
- 2000: Connecticut – Beginning Educator Support and Training (BEST) Program
- 1999: North Carolina – North Carolina Community College System
- 1998: Oregon – Students Recycling Used Technology (STRUT)
Education Commission of the States Corporate Award
The Corporate Award recognizes a for-profit corporation, nonprofit organization or foundation that has demonstrated a sustained commitment to improving public education in the United States. The award was created under the leadership of ECS 1999-2000 Chair, Wyoming Governor Jim Geringer. The Corporate Award is presented to organizations or companies that:
- Support improvement that is consistent with Education Commission of the States’ mission and priorities.
- Support promising practices to improve student outcomes.
- Enjoy broad-based support in the states or communities in which they operate.
- 2020: Crayola
- 2019: The Tennessee School Boards Association
- 2018: The IBM Foundation
- 2017: Unum
- 2016: Newseum
- 2013: Scholastic
- 2012: GE Foundation
- 2011: ExxonMobil
- 2010: AT&T
- 2009: Project Lead The Way
- 2008: Simon Youth Foundation
- 2007: Pearson
- 2006: Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)
- 2005: Hewlett Packard Company
- 2004: MBNA Corporation
- 2003: Intel Corporation and Washington Mutual
- 2002: State Farm Insurance Companies
- 2001: MetLife and MetLife Foundation
Education Commission of the States Chair's Award
The Chair of the Education Commission of the States has the discretion during his or her term in office to bestow an award on an individual or group who has had a meaningful impact on the work of the Chair or the organization. As a bipartisan position, various individuals and groups have been given this honor over the years based on different contributions.
Past Award Winners:
- 2013: Get Smart Schools
- 2010: Teach For America
- 2008: Luther Olsen and Richard Rhoda
- 2007: Ford Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Ewing Maring Kauffman Foundation and The Wallace Foundation
- 2006: Neil Portnow, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences.
- 2005: Placido Domingo
- 2004: Carl Takamura, Executive Director, Hawaii Business Roundtable
- 2003: Ron Newcomb, Education Assistant to former Georgia Governor Roy E. Barnes
- 2002: Miles E. Turner, ECS Commissioner and Steering Committee Member from Wisconsin
- 2001: Ed Ford, Kentucky Deputy Secretary to the Executive Cabinet
- 2000: Ted Stilwill, Iowa Director of Education
- 1999: Ardyce L. Bohlke, Nebraska State Senator
- 1998: David H. Steele, Utah State Senator
- 1997: Howard P. “Pete” Rawlings, Maryland State Representative
- 1996: John Hansen, Idaho State Senator