For the first time in its 13-year history, The Broad Prize for Urban Education Award goes to two public school districts.
Georgia’s Gwinnett County Public Schools and Florida’s Orange County Public Schools walked away as co-winner of the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation 2014 Award. This year the $1 million prize will be split and each district will receive $500,000 in college scholarships for their high school seniors.
The districts learned of their dual honor during a Monday afternoon presentation in New York that included U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad and Rt. Hon. Tony Blair, former prime minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The Broad Prize is an annual award that honors large urban school districts that are successfully demonstrating overall student performance and improvement while reducing achievement gaps among low-income students and students of color. Every year 75 of the national’s largest urban school district are automatically eligible for the award.
There really was no tie breaker when it came down to performance versus improvement. Of the prestigious nine member selection committee, former Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, explained the decision to name co-winners this year.
“We were impressed with Gwinnett County’s steady, sustainable gains and with Orange County’s urgency and commitment to improve student achievement quickly. In the end, we decided that both finalists deserved to win the 2014 Broad Prize,” said Rendell.
Judges for this year’s award included two former U.S. secretaries of education, a former senator and two former governors.
For Gwinnett County Public Schools this is the second Broad Prize win with the first one occurring in 2010, and a finalist position in 2009. Gwinnett’s prize winnings now total $1.75 million in college scholarships for its students.
Both school districts have made strides in student academic performance and college readiness. Gwinnett County high school seniors had the highest SAT participation rate among the 75 Broad Prize-eligible districts. In 2013, 88 percent of all Gwinnett County seniors took the SAT, including 90 percent of black seniors and 70 percent of Hispanic seniors. That compares to an average participation rate of 43 percent for black students and 40 percent for Hispanic students among all eligible districts.
In Orange County, between 2011 and 2013, participation rates and average scores on Advanced Placement exams increased for all juniors and seniors overall and notably for Hispanic students.
Below are specific statistics illustrating why these two school districts are deserving of the 2014 Broad Prize Award.
- In 2013, Gwinnett ranked among the top 20 percent of districts statewide for the percentage of low-income students at all education levels (elementary, middle and high school) performing at the highest achievement level in reading, math and science. For example, 33 percent of Gwinnett’s low-income middle school students reached the advanced academic level on the state math assessment compared with 19 percent of low-income middle school students in the rest of the state.
- In 2013, Gwinnett County ranked among the top 10 percent of districts statewide for the percentage of black students at all education levels who performed at the highest achievement level on state-mandated tests in reading, math and science. For example, 40 percent of Gwinnett County’s black elementary school students reached the advanced academic level on the state science assessment, compared with 20 percent of black elementary school students in the rest of the state.
- In recent years, Orange County was more successful than at least 80 percent of Florida districts at raising the percentage of low-income middle school students who performed at the highest achievement levels on state tests in reading and math. For example, between 2011 and 2013, the percentage of low-income students performing at the highest achievement level rose 6 percentage points in middle school reading compared to only 1 percent for students in the rest of Florida.
- tThe achievement gap between Hispanic students in Orange County and white students in the rest of Florida narrowed in elementary, middle and high school reading and science and in elementary and high school math. The gap between Orange County’s low-income students and higher-income students elsewhere in Florida narrowed in elementary, middle and high school reading and math, and in elementary and middle school science.
The two winning school districts this year share remarkably similar demographics. Gwinnett County Public Schools, the largest school district in Georgia serves 169,150 students; Orange County has 187,193 students. Both districts’ student populations are fairly evenly divided across ethnic cities and income levels. Gwinnett has 58 percent black or Hispanic students and 55 percent low-income students and Orange has 63 percent black or Hispanic students and 60 percent low-income students.