‘Trailblazing’ Initiatives Earn National Recognition for GCS

Council of the Great City Schools Award Courageous. Trailblazing. Innovative. Those were just a few of the words used to describe the Guilford County Board of Education’s work to improve education and the lives of Guilford County Schools (GCS) students during a special recognition Tuesday night.

The Council of the Great City Schools (CGCS), a national organization exclusively representing the needs of urban public schools, presented the board with their Profiles in Courage Award. The national organization says GCS serves as a model for districts all over the country.

“The Guilford County Schools are leading some of the broadest and most effective school improvement efforts in public education today,” said Michael Casserly, executive director of CGCS. “The Council of the Great City Schools wants the community and the nation to know about them.”

Casserly highlighted GCS’ pioneering work in improving African-American male achievement and high school graduation rates, which reached an all-time high in 2014; launching one of the nation’s most robust character education and service-learning initiatives, which has helped decrease the district’s dropout rate; successful efforts to close the access and achievement gaps through the creation of nine early and middle colleges and increasing poor and minority access to Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes; as well as the board’s legal action regarding constitutionality of recently adopted teacher tenure and voucher legislation, among other accomplishments.

GCS’ academic improvements can be seen in its record-breaking graduation rates. In 2014 the overall rate was 88.5 percent, up from 80.7 percent in 2010 when GCS launched its character development program. Casserly also highlighted GCS’ graduation rates of African-American students at 86.9 percent and Hispanic students at 82.5 percent, which are among the highest in the country for any large urban school system.

“This progress has narrowed the racially-identifiable achievement gap in a way that most other urban school systems would love to see for themselves,” said Casserly.

The class of 2014 also graduated with more than $149 million in scholarship dollars offered and earned 477 service-learning diplomas, 34 students earned their high school and associate degrees, and  more than 33 percent passed at least one AP or IB exam or earned a B or better in a college course giving them college credit.