To help districts and their partners transform schools into places where all students achieve academic proficiency, evidence a love of learning, and graduate well-prepared to succeed in post-secondary education, the workplace, and their communities.
NCUST started in 2005 as the vision of then-president of San Diego State University (SDSU), Stephen Weber and then-dean of the SDSU College of Education, Lionel “Skip” Meno. Both men envisioned SDSU playing a constructive role in improving urban education throughout the nation. With a generous $2.4 million gift from QUALCOMM, Inc. they established NCUST in 2005. Joseph F. Johnson, Jr. was hired to serve as the center’s first executive director.
Immediately, the new center established the National Excellence in Urban Education Award Program as a strategy to identify and begin to study some of the nation’s most successful urban schools. The first five schools were awarded in May 2006 at the center’s first symposium. These first award-winning schools and their successors nurtured the NCUST team’s conviction that all urban schools could achieve excellent learning results.
Studies of these outstanding urban schools led the SDSU Department of Educational Leadership to refine its leadership preparation programs in ways that better prepared candidates to pursue the policies and practices found in high-achieving urban schools. As well, the studies led to many conference presentations and several early publications including articles in Educational Leadership, Educational Administration Quarterly, and the Journal for the Education of Students Placed at Risk.
In 2012, Eye on Education published Teaching Practices from America’s Best Urban Schools: A Guide for School and Classroom Leaders, the first book based on the center’s findings. In 2019, Routledge published a second edition of this book. In January 2017, Routledge published Leadership in America’s Best Urban Schools, describing in greater detail what we have learned about the characteristics of high-performing urban schools, the structures employed to develop and nurture those characteristics, and the leadership challenges that accompany the transformation of teaching and learning. In 2018, Routledge also published, Five Practices for Improving the Success of Latino Students: A Guide for Secondary School Leaders.
NCUST has developed partnerships with schools and districts eager to establish outstanding urban schools. The center has supported several school districts in California, Arizona, Texas, Kansas, Utah, Missouri, and Tennessee. NCUST coaches have helped district leaders, principals, and teacher leaders emulate some of the best practices found in the schools NCUST has awarded and studied. While we continue to learn about the challenges associated with improving teaching and learning in urban schools, we are proud to have been part of successful improvement efforts in multiple schools and districts across the nation. Each year, we seek to deepen our understanding of the factors that influence student success and each year, we seek to share what we have learned through presentations, webinars, dissertations, other print publications, and the center’s website. And each year, we seek to refine our partnerships in ways that result in the advancement of equity and excellence in the schools and districts we have the privilege to serve.