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Urban Leaders Focus on School Improvement at Annual Conference

UPDATED

Nearly 1,000 educators from some of the nation's largest urban districts will gather in Long Beach, Calif., over the next five days to discuss strategies to drive school improvement.

The annual gathering of the Council of the Great City Schools, which represents more than 60 districts, including Anchorage, Alaska, and the entire state of Hawaii, will meet under the banner, "Sailing To Success in Urban Education."

District officials will provide updates on the steps they have taken to date toward fulfilling the pledge they took last year as part of President Obama's My Brother's Keeper program.

The majority of the council's districts pledged to take concrete measures aimed at improving educational outcomes for boys of color, including increasing their enrollment in and access to Advanced Placement classes, cutting absenteeism, increasing graduation rates, and spearheading broader discussions about race, language, and culture in their districts.

Other topics on the agenda include issues related to equity and equality in education—an especially current and salient topic that has taken on new urgency in the past year—the common core state standards, building strong principal pipeline programs for urban districts, and teacher effectiveness and evaluations.

Students from Long Beach, New York City, and San Francisco will take the lead in the council's signature town hall meeting on Friday—the second time in the conference's history that students' voices will be front and center at the town hall. 

The session, "Urban Students Speak Out, Race and Their Futures," will be moderated by journalist Maria Hinojosa.

On Thursday, the group will award its "Urban Educator of the Year Award." This year's honor will go to a school board member. The finalists are Cindy Elsbernd from the Des Moines district in Iowa; Perla Tabares Hantman from Florida's Miami-Dade district; William Isler from the district in Pittsburgh, and Bill Sublette from the Orange County district in Orlando, Fla. 

Last year's winner was Houston Superintendent Terry Grier.

Other big-names who will speak at the conference include educator George McKenna, astronaut Jose Hernandez, and CNN host Fareed Zakaria.

You can follow the events on Twitter under the hashtag #cgcs15

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