CCSSO Honors Sesame Street Creators with 2020 Distinguished Service Award

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Washington, D.C. (November 9, 2020) – The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) presented its 2020 Distinguished Service Award to the co-creators of Sesame Street, Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett.

The Distinguished Service Award is the Council’s highest honor and recognizes individuals whose contributions have given strength to pre-K-12 public education in the United States. This premier award of the Council has been presented over a period of 60 years. With this award, CCSSO recognizes extensive, long-term service and commitment to improving education. 

Since its debut in 1969, Sesame Street has been an innovative provider of early childhood education, and research has shown a long-lasting positive impact: young people who watched Sesame Street have higher GPAs in high school than their peers. The program has also tackled adult-size problems in a child-appropriate way, from grappling with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to understanding autism. Sesame Street has won 193 Emmy Awards, more than any other show on television; five Peabody Awards; and the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award. It also was the first TV show to win a Kennedy Center Honor.  

Sesame Street has touched the lives of America’s children for five decades. The show’s beloved characters have taught far more than just letters and numbers, helping young children learn to cope with tough social issues like homelessness and death and teaching social-emotional learning skills like resiliency,” said CCSSO Executive Director Carissa Moffat Miller. “Educational television has been a vital tool to help continue learning during school closures necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Chiefs are honored to recognize the creators of this groundbreaking show, which has helped countless children in the United States and around the world.”  

Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow, the outgoing CCSSO Board President, presented the award virtually to Sesame Workshop Senior Vice President of Content and Curriculum Rosemarie Truglio, Ph.D., who accepted on behalf of Cooney and Morrisett. The award is traditionally given at CCSSO’s annual Legislative Conference, held in the spring; the conference was canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett are visionaries who created a diverse and inclusive neighborhood that has brought joyful learning to children around the world for over 50 years,” said Truglio. “Today, when the world needs values — and vision — like Joan’s and Lloyd’s more than ever, we’re honored to accept this award on their behalf from CCSSO, an organization dedicated to providing quality public education to young Americans.” 

Wisconsin Governor and former state chief Tony Evers received the Distinguished Service Award last year. Previous recipients include Sen. Edward Kennedy, Rep. George Miller, President Lyndon Johnson, Marian Wright Edelman, and the four architects of the Every Student Succeeds Act: Chairman Lamar Alexander, Chairman John Kline, Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Bobby Scott.


The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, Bureau of Indian Education, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions. CCSSO provides leadership, advocacy, and technical assistance on major educational issues. The Council seeks member consensus on major educational issues and expresses their views to civic and professional organizations, federal agencies, Congress, and the public.

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