Miami-Dade District Wins Broad Prize

By Jaclyn Zubrzycki — October 23, 2012 3 min read
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Five-time finalist Miami-Dade County public schools has won the Broad Prize for Urban Education.

At an event today at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that the 350,000-student Miami-Dade district is the winner. In his remarks, philanthropist Eli Broad said the prize was aimed at creating environments where “good teachers can do great things.”

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation provides $550,000 in scholarships to a school district determined to be the nation’s most-improved urban school system, and $150,000 apiece to three finalists.

The announcement was broadcast on the Broad Foundation’s website (and will be archived for viewing here). You can also view photos of the winner here.

The prize has been awarded every year since 2002, and Miami-Dade was also a finalist in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2011. Miami-Dade is the nation’s fourth-largest school district. Seventy-four percent of its students are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch, 90 percent are black or Hispanic, and 21 percent are English-language learners.

The finalists are selected by a panel, and then an 11-member jury (the press release specifically notes that it is bipartisan, though that doesn’t necessarily reflect their attitudes toward education policy) analyzes districts’ test scores and conducts classroom visits before selecting the winner. There’s no set formula to determine which district will win; here’s a description of the process.

Some of the accomplishments cited by the jury:

  • High and increasing percentages of Miami’s Hispanic and black students scored advanced on state exams;
  • There was increased participation and performance on the SAT for students overall;
  • The graduation rate for black and Hispanic students increased, especially between 2006-09, when it grew by 14 percentage points.

In a conversation with Education Week before the announcement, Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said that the series of nominations demonstrated that the district’s successes are not just a “flash in the pan.”

“I believe we’re providing a scalable, practical solution as America becomes more Miami. We’ve cracked the code of student achievement in Miami that can become America’s solution,” Carvalho said. Mr. Carvalho has been superintendent since 2008, when he succeeded Rudy Crew.

Carvalho drew attention to improvements in some of the district’s lowest-performing schools, which he attributed partly to the Data/COM (short for Data assessment, technical assistance, coordination of management, according to Carvalho) process. During Data/COM, school officials analyze a school’s challenges and debate solutions, Carvalho said. The Broad jurists also applauded that program in their announcement of the award.

The district’s budget has also improved dramatically under Carvalho’s tenure, which was noted by the jury. “This may seem strange, but we actually embraced the economic recession as an opportunity to leverage and accomplish change,” he said. The district found additional government and foundation funding and made sure all spending was directed at improving student achievement, Carvalho said.

The event’s keynote came from Admiral Michael G. Mullen, a retired chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which advises the president and others on national security issues, and was in keeping with Broad’s framing of education as an issue of national security. Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, also spoke, touting his own district’s successes. New York won the 2007 Broad Prize.

In terms of national security and America’s intellectual capital, Carvalho was optimistic. “I’m an American by choice,” he said (Carvalho came to America from Portugal as a teenager). “I too am informed by best practices across the world that we find in countries like Singapore or Hong Kong—but I believe also that we have an opportunity as a nation of innovation to reinvent ourselves as a better version of ourselves rather than attempting to copy someone else.”

This year’s runners-up were Palm Beach County, also in Florida; Houston, which won the first Broad Prize in 2002; and the Corono-Norco district in California. Corono-Norco and Palm Beach County are both first-time finalists. The superintendents for each participated in a roundtable this morning.

Last year’s winner was Charlotte-Mecklenburg. A local TV station recently interviewed that district about its experience with the prize one year out.

Photo: Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, center, and United Teachers of Dade President Karen Aronowitz, right, react after learning that their district won the 2012 Broad Prize for Urban Education. (Diane Bondareff/Invision/AP)

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.