Supporting State Leadership: CCSSO’s 2021 Year in Review

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A message from Chief Executive Officer Carissa Moffat Miller:

This past year tapped our leadership and ingenuity in yet new ways, and state education chiefs continued to navigate uncertainty to serve their students, educators and communities. Amid the difficulties we endured in 2021, we have much to be thankful for as we look back.

We at the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) are grateful to state education chiefs for their tireless dedication to their school communities and for allowing CCSSO to support them and their staffs in that work.

From working to boost summer programming offerings to accelerating learning and supporting student wellbeing to directing federal emergency relief funds to investments that will support students who need it the most, state education leaders are continuing to focus on creating more equitable opportunities for all students.

CCSSO is proud to continue to serve as the go-to support organization for the nation’s state education leaders, and in 2021, we strived to adapt our services to their needs as the pandemic presented new challenges.

We will stay focused on the critical work mapped out in our new strategic plan framework for 2021-2026. This document sets our organization’s core priorities for the next five years in three broad areas: Response and Recovery; Equity, Access and Critical Infrastructure; and Modernizing the Education System.

But for now, please join us in a look back at what we were able to accomplish together this past year.


CCSSO actively advocated with Congress to include approximately $200 billion in federal funding for education in multiple emergency spending bills between March 2020 and March 2021.

  • We are supporting states in leveraging the federal relief and implementing new programs. We have aggregated a few of CCSSO’s resources on this topic on our new Federal Funding Resource site.
  • We hosted numerous webinars with senior leaders from the U.S. Departments of Education and Agriculture, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Federal Communications Commission to keep states informed about federal rules and funding flexibilities.

Restart & Recovery Supports to States: Given a historic amount of federal relief aid, states worked quickly to identify the most critical needs in their state and how this investment can make the biggest difference for students. CCSSO supported their efforts in many ways, from thought partnership and weekly office hours to direct technical assistance. See here for more on how states are investing their federal relief funding to support students and teachers.

  • CCSSO and the National Summer Learning Association launched a collaboration to support states around impactful summer learning to improve student achievement. The effort is aligned with the U.S. Department of Education’s Summer Learning and Enrichment Collaborative launched under Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.
  • CCSSO created a new Recovery Network to support state leaders to effectively implement state plans for COVID relief funding, monitor and transparently report progress, and communicate clearly about their successes.

We launched a 12-organization Coalition to Advance Future Student Success to ensure all students receive the equitable educational opportunities they deserve. The newly formed coalition of leading education organizations -- from practitioners in the classroom to leaders in the state capitol -- is a recognition that the historic injection of federal emergency relief funds presents a transformative opportunity for our public K-12 education system. The Coalition’s goal is to ensure that the federal investment provided during the COVID-19 pandemic is spent effectively and efficiently.

CCSSO released A Nation of Readers: How State Chiefs Can Help Every Child Learn to Read, a report focused on actions state leaders can take to improve reading skills for students. The report was released during a virtual event exploring how to help states make the actions a reality. This webinar and report continued the work we began with our 2020 National Summit on Literacy. Among the work underway in states, Tennessee is leveraging about $60 million of federal COVID-19 relief funding and $40 million in federal grant funding to launch Reading 360°. Public colleges and universities in Virginia can apply for grants totaling $34 million to develop resources and professional development programs for reading and mathematics. North Carolina developed for families, caregivers and others the Literacy at Home virtual resource with activities for grades P-K through 5th grade. The activities are also aligned with new literacy instruction professional learning for state educators, which is grounded in research-based methods of early literacy instruction.

CCSSO celebrated the 30th year of its Collaboratives in 2021 with record membership. The 455 state memberships this program year represents an increase of 13% from last year.

  • This year, a record 54 states and territories are represented across the 17 Collaboratives.
  • Across all meetings, including guest speakers and staff, 1,515 individuals participated in the FY21 program year.
  • 87% of Collaborative members said their membership helped them do their jobs better, and 92% reported that the CCSSO Collaboratives membership is a good use of their time.

CCSSO’s High-Quality Instructional Materials and Professional Development Network (IMPD), which began with eight states in summer 2017, has grown to 13 states. States in the IMPD Network have higher usage of high-quality instructional materials than teachers nationwide, according to RAND’s research. Given the increase in adoption and use of high-quality instructional materials, IMPD Network states are deepening their focus on supporting educators — both pre-service and in-service — to be able to use these materials in an engaging and effective way that supports student achievement. 

CCSSO welcomed the 2020 and 2021 cohorts of State Teachers of the Year to Washington, D.C., for a series of events, including a celebration at the White House, visits to Smithsonian museums, meetings with lawmakers, and a gala in their honor. Other exciting developments in CCSSO’s National Teacher of the Year Program include:

  • We supported the 2021 National Teacher of the Year Juliana Urtubey who advocates for a “joyful and just education” for all students, one that is inclusive and celebratory of all students’ identities, families and communities.
  • Urtubey has shared her message in a media appearance with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden on CBS This Morning, on The Today Show and in People Magazine representing America’s teachers as a 2021 Person of the Year, among other places, including Colombian media.

We launched the Voices from the Classroom: The State Teacher of the Year Podcast in October 2020 and produced a second season in November 2021.

CCSSO continued its robust supports to members and its drive for improvement.

  • Profiles in Diversity Journal awarded CCSSO and Chief Equity Officer Annie Holmes its 13th Annual Diversity Leader Award. This is the third consecutive year Holmes and CCSSO have received the award.
  • CCSSO launched a webinar series on Addressing Inequitable Systems for state education agency members, covering topics including fostering equitable learning environments and student experiences in education.
  • CCSSO held 337 webinars and 239 virtual conferences from June 1, 2020 through July 1, 2021.
  • We restarted in-person convenings with our Summer Leadership Convening in July and Annual Policy Forum in November.
  • We released more than 20 resources to inform the work of our state membership.
  • Our focus on professional support and development for state chiefs continued through the Leadership Academy. State leaders from Colorado and Pennsylvania continued to participate in a Coherence Lab Fellowship, building their skill and capacity to build coherence throughout the system. CCSSO facilitated a strategic planning process for Arizona, and separately hosted two chief-only leadership workshop series: one on long-term planning and one on adaptive leadership.

We are exceedingly honored that in our annual survey 98% of state chiefs and senior deputies said that CCSSO has helped strengthen the knowledge, skills and capacity of chiefs and their staffs. Two-thirds of state chiefs and senior deputies say CCSSO is their most important resource during this time.

State leaders who are committed to making a difference for each student make our work possible. As we look to 2022, we see so much opportunity for our students and our nation’s schools. We have the enormous responsibility of keeping our students on a path to success during this pandemic, and I am confident that your innovative and bold thinking will continue to be the north star for our collective work to serve all students.

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