Five school districts from California to Florida are in the running for an award that has been described as a Nobel Prize in education reform. The Broad Prize for Urban Education, as the award is officially known, is given each year to an urban school district that has made significant progress in raising achievement, especially among low-income and minority students. The award comes with $2 million in scholarships for the five finalists.
The finalists include the Aldine Independent School District in Houston, which has been a finalist the past three years; Broward County Public Schools in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., also a finalist last year; and Long Beach Unified School District in Southern California, which could become the first district to win the award a second time. The other finalists are the Socorro Independent School District in El Paso, Texas, and Gwinnett County Public Schools outside Atlanta.
The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, a Los Angeles-based philanthropic group, has recognized the most improved urban districts with the prize since 2002. This year's winner will receive $1 million in college scholarships for seniors who graduate in 2010. The four other districts will each receive $250,000 in scholarships. The winner will be announced in September in Washington, D.C., after researchers complete visits to the five districts.
Last year's winner was a school district in Brownsville, Texas, that has the highest child poverty rate in the country. The district's Hispanic and low-income students outperformed their counterparts in the state in math at all grade levels and in reading in the elementary grades.