School & District Management

Broad Foundation Doubles Awards Under Urban Education Prize

By Dakarai I. Aarons — September 03, 2008 3 min read
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The payments to be bestowed by the Broad Prize for Urban Education program have been doubled to $2 million, the Los Angeles-based Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation announced last week.

The award is given annually to a city school district that has made notable strides in improving achievement, especially in closing gaps among students of different racial and ethnic groups. The prize money pays for college scholarships for students.

This year, the winning district will receive $1 million. The prizes given to runners-up have been doubled as well. The four finalist districts will receive $250,000 each.

The New York City public schools won the prize last fall. The seventh Broad Prize winner will be announced Oct. 14 in a ceremony at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

“In the seven years, costs of going to college have gone up. We thought because of its success, we should double the amount of the prize,” said founder Eli Broad.

Money for Scholarships

The scholarships are for students who have shown the most gains over a three-year period. Such students often are overlooked and don’t qualify for other academic or merit-based scholarships, said Dan Katzir, the foundation’s managing director. A market study conducted by the foundation showed a growing affordability problem as college tuition rises.

“For those kids in particular, the rising tuition and squeeze on other loan and scholarship money made us want to do this,” he said.

Students who attend a four-year institution will receive $20,000 scholarships, while those who attend a two-year institution will receive $5,000. Scholarship students are selected by the Educational Testing Service based on criteria provided by the Broad Foundation.

This year’s five finalists are the Aldine Independent school district in Texas; Broward County public schools in Florida; Brownsville public schools in Texas; Long Beach Unified school district in California; and Miami-Dade County public schools in Florida. In a news release naming the finalists earlier this year, the districts were highlighted for academic gains among their Hispanic students.

Mr. Broad said the additional money will not only provide an extra boost for students and school districts, but will help to heighten competition. A number of superintendents, including Michael Hinojosa, of the Dallas Independent School District, have made winning the Broad Prize a formal goal.

Mr. Hinojosa, who set a goal in 2005 that Dallas would have the best urban district in the nation by 2010, said he picked the Broad Prize as the standard by which to measure the district because the judging is done by external evaluators.

The goal is less about winning the prize than using it to help motivate everyone toward a common goal, he said.

“It would be great if we won it. I think we will have a good shot on it. The fact our community and staff rallied behind a lofty goal was the important thing,” Mr. Hinojosa said. “I certainly hope to be a finalist within the next two years.”

Under the “Dallas Achieves” plan, the Texas district is focusing on raising graduation rates, graduating better-prepared students, and closing achievement gaps. This year, the number of Dallas schools ranked in the Texas Education Agency’s top-two categories nearly doubled.

The Broad Foundation has spent upwards of $500 million on urban education since 1999, including funding programs that train school board members and potential superintendents. (The foundation is also providing grant support for Education Week’s A Nation at Risk: 25 Years Later” series.)

Mr. Broad said he believes the Broad Prize has helped spur conversation about best practices among urban school districts and given more attention to improving education, which he believes is key to America’s future success.

“Everyone is down on public urban education. There are districts out there that are doing far better than others. They deserved to have a spotlight on them to show what can really be done,” he said of starting the prize.

Mr. Hinojosa agreed.

The Broad Prize is “validation for the hard work they have put into the urban system,” he said of the districts it recognizes. “It helps with the morale of their staff, and it disproves the myths about urban kids being able to be successful.”

A version of this article appeared in the September 10, 2008 edition of Education Week as Broad Foundation Doubles Awards Under Urban Education Prize

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