Urban Education Institute appoints leading policy expert Cornelia Grumman to propel national outreach

Cornelia Grumman, a national leader in education policy advocacy and communication, has been named Director of Policy and Strategic Communications at the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute (UEI). In her role, Grumman will spearhead national outreach to policymakers and educators who can put UEI’s innovative findings into action.

The appointment is part of an ambitious plan to improve schooling nationwide, ensuring more states and cities across the country benefit from UEI’s expertise conducting rigorous applied research, operating high-achieving urban schools, training exemplary teachers and designing and delivering school-improvement tools and training to thousands of schools and classrooms around the United States.

Grumman will engage with policymakers and education leaders nationwide to advance UEI’s mission to create reliably excellent urban schooling at scale.

“We want to make the transformative findings from the University of Chicago more visible and helpful for policymakers and practitioners across the country,” said Timothy Knowles, the John Dewey Director of the Urban Education Institute. “Our research shows that the right policy levers, tools and training can help communities build great schools and transform lives. Cornelia will help governors, mayors and education leaders nationwide make even better decisions about what works and put it into practice.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who got to know Grumman during his tenure as chief of the Chicago Public Schools, said her policy expertise and powerful advocacy will benefit her new role and the national education dialogue.

"The University of Chicago Urban Education Institute undertakes some of the nation's most important work on improving urban schooling,” said Duncan, who recently spoke with Knowles at a University event on education policy. “Cornelia will be a fantastic addition to lead their efforts to inform policymakers and engage practitioners to deepen student learning and accelerate achievement for children."

Grumman was a Pulitzer-winning journalist at the Chicago Tribune before becoming founding executive director of the First Five Years Fund, where she led the organization’s work, advocating for stronger federal policies and creating greater public support for quality early childhood for the nation’s most at-risk children. Those efforts helped result in a nearly $1 billion increase in federal investment in quality early childhood support for at-risk children, including the creation of the national Early Learning Challenge Fund grant competition.

At the Tribune, Grumman served on the editorial board and won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for a series of editorials that helped spur reform in Illinois’ criminal justice system. She also earned the Studs Terkel Award and other journalism honors for her coverage of disadvantaged communities and issues affecting children and families.

Grumman’s new position will combine her national perspective on education with the lessons that come from UEI’s groundbreaking work in Chicago and elsewhere.

“Researchers, policymakers and educators all work under one roof at UEI and the exciting result is that the place is starting to operate as a kind of idea factory,” Grumman said. “I’m eager to be part of that continued development, and to make sure those ideas are exported broadly across the country. Governors, mayors, superintendents and lawmakers who care about urban student success could benefit enormously from UEI research and results.”

Uniquely positioned at the intersection of research and practice, UEI’s impact on education policy and practice has grown rapidly over the last few years. Its research consortium UChicago CCSR has informed school policy and practice in Chicago and nationally for two decades and the Consortium model has inspired replicas in New York City, Los Angeles, Newark, Baltimore, San Diego and other major cities. UEI’s not-for-profit UChicago Impact delivers tools and training to thousands of schools in 55 cities and 23 states nationwide, with recent adoptions across Illinois, Detroit, the Twin Cities and elsewhere. Graduates of the University of Chicago Urban Teacher Education Program remain teaching in urban schools at more than double the national average, and the UChicago Charter School, which serves more than 1,800 students in grades PreK-12, recently celebrated its second straight year of 100 percent college acceptance for graduating seniors.

Grumman’s work will build on UEI’s successes to create lasting national impact on urban schooling across America.

Grumman officially begins her role at the Urban Education Institute on Nov. 20.