School & District Management

Boston District Wins Broad Foundation’s Award

By Catherine Gewertz — September 26, 2006 2 min read

After four years as a finalist, the Boston school district won the Broad Prize for Urban Education last week in recognition of its success improving achievement, especially among racial- and ethnic-minority groups.

Boston won the prize only three months after the retirement of Thomas W. Payzant, who orchestrated key improvements during more than a decade as superintendent. “The fifth time’s the charm,” Mr. Payzant said in a telephone interview from New York City, shortly after the award was announced there on Sept. 19.

As the winner, the Boston district gets $500,000 to be used to provide college scholarships for students. The other finalists this year—the school districts in Bridgeport, Conn., Jersey City, N.J.; Miami-Dade County, Fla.; and New York City—will each receive $125,000 in scholarship money.

In awarding the prize, officials of the Los Angeles-based Broad Foundation noted that since 2002, the 58,000-student Boston public schools have outperformed demographically similar districts in Massachusetts in reading and mathematics in elementary, middle, and high school.

Students in Boston in 4th and 8th grade improved faster in those subjects than students nationwide, and those attending schools in other large cities, on the National Assessment of Educational Progress between the 2002-03 and 2004-05 school years.

Boston’s African-American students have improved in reading and math more than those in other similar districts in the state, and the district is closing the math gap between Latino and white students at the middle and high school levels faster than the state average, the foundation said. The district has also seen large increases in the numbers of black and Latino students taking Advanced Placement exams in English and math.

Stability Counts

Eli Broad, the founder of the philanthropy and an active proponent of a strong mayoral role in school governance, praised the “stable leadership” of Mr. Payzant and Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who appointed Mr. Payzant and worked closely with him, as pivotal to the district’s performance, along with its use of data to guide teaching.

“While it is discouraging that there is not more success in this country’s public school systems, other large urban districts can learn from Boston’s success,” Mr. Broad said in a statement.

Mr. Payzant attributed the district’s improvement to maintaining a clear focus on beefing up instruction, linking all initiatives and strategies to serve that end, and changing the culture of the district so that teachers work collaboratively to improve their practice.

“It’s steady: teaching and learning,” he said. “That is what it’s all about, rather than just creating lists of new initiatives each year.”

Despite the district’s success, Mr. Payzant said, much work remains to be done to raise the high school graduation rate, close achievement gaps, and stem teacher turnover.

Michael G. Contompasis, who was the district’s chief operating officer for eight years before becoming its interim superintendent in June, said Boston made the progress it did because Mayor Menino and Mr. Payzant were able to keep a consistent focus on schools for more than a decade.

“It’s a commitment to standards and systemic reform which we’ve never veered away from,” he said.

The Boston school board’s search for a permanent superintendent to replace Mr. Payzant went off schedule this past summer, when several candidates withdrew from the running. The district now hopes to have a permanent superintendent in place in January. (“Schools Chief Search Off Schedule in Boston,” July 26, 2006.)

A version of this article appeared in the September 27, 2006 edition of Education Week as Boston District Wins Broad Foundation’s Award


Jobs The EdWeek Top School Jobs Virtual Career Fair
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Mathematics Webinar
Engaging Young Students to Accelerate Math Learning
Join learning scientists and inspiring district leaders, for a timely panel discussion addressing a school district’s approach to doubling and tripling Math gains during Covid. What started as a goal to address learning gaps in
Content provided by Age of Learning & Digital Promise, Harlingen CISD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
How to Power Your Curriculum With Digital Books
Register for this can’t miss session looking at best practices for utilizing digital books to support their curriculum.
Content provided by OverDrive

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management We Pay Superintendents Big Bucks and Expect Them to Succeed. But We Hardly Know Them
National data is skimpy, making it hard to know what influences superintendents' decisions to move on, retire, or how long they stay. Why?
8 min read
Conceptual image of tracking with data.
School & District Management Data For the First Time in the Pandemic, a Majority of 4th Graders Learn in Person Full Time
The latest monthly federal data still show big racial and socioeconomic differences in who has access to full-time in-person instruction.
3 min read
Student with backpack.
School & District Management From Our Research Center To Offer Remote Learning in the Fall or Not? Schools Are Split
An EdWeek Research Center survey shows that nearly 4 of every 10 educators say their schools will not offer any remote instruction options.
4 min read
Image of a teacher working with a student through a screen session.
School & District Management Opinion What Does It Mean to Call a Program 'Evidence-Based' Anyway?
States and school districts need to help educators weigh the research on programs. Too often it stops at a single positive study.
Fiona Hollands, Yuan Chang & Venita Holmes
5 min read
A researcher points to charts and data