School & District Management

Broad: New Award to Be ‘Nobel’ For Education

By Michelle R. Davis — March 20, 2002 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Think Pulitzer Price or Nobel Prize. Then think education.

That’s what philanthropist Eli Broad hopes people will do now that he’s unveiled his Broad Prize for Urban Education.

Mr. Broad hopes the prize, announced March 15, will give urban school districts a goal to shoot for and bolster wavering confidence in America’s public schools. The $500,000 award, its creators say, will be the nation’s largest cash prize for educational improvement.

“What will make the difference is recognizing a district and having other districts believe that they too can be recognized,” Mr. Broad said. “It’s important to get the public to believe that there can be reform and progress and student achievement in large urban districts.”

The annual prize will be awarded by the Los Angeles-based Broad Foundation, created in 1999 to focus on philanthropy projects, including those involving education. The foundation provides funding to Education Week for coverage of leadership issues.

The prize will be awarded for the first time this summer to one of 108 eligible school districts across the country. Districts with more than 100,000 students are automatically eligible, but the pool also extends to districts with more than 35,000 students with at least 40 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches and 40 percent ethnic-minority students. Proximity to urban areas also was a consideration, Mr. Broad said.

The list of eligible districts includes at least one district in each state. The foundation said the list of districts will be available on its Web site,, in the coming days.

The contest has no formal application process. Instead, a group of educators affiliated with the Austin- based National Center for Educational Accountability will evaluate the districts and winnow the field down for a panel of judges, who will then pick the winner. Frederick M. Hess, an assistant professor of government and education at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., will be among those who will do the initial evaluation.

The Broad prize will measure results instead of looking at the latest trends in K-12 instruction, Mr. Hess said.

“So often, the conversation is about what districts are trying to do and whether it’s the right approach,” he said. “What really matters is what works for kids.”

The group of judges includes businessmen, politicians, and former U.S. Secretaries of Education Lamar Alexander and Richard W. Riley. They’ll judge districts’ success in improving test scores and in closing achievement gaps separating students of various ethnic and racial groups.

The prize will provide students in the winning district with scholarships for postsecondary education, said Melissa Bonney Ratcliff, a foundation spokeswoman. The education methods each winning district uses will be publicized to help other districts, she said.

Mr. Broad, the chairman of the financial-services company SunAmerica Inc., said he expects some criticism from those who believe the country should turn to public school alternatives like vouchers and charter schools. He’s already getting some.

Chester E. Finn Jr., the president of the Washington-based Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, said the Broad Foundation’s confidence in the public school system is misplaced.

“When I look at the truly broken school systems of America,” he said, “they’re so inert and helpless that I’m not sure that this incentive will do them much good.”

In addition, many urban and large school districts have budgets measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars, Mr. Finn said. “This enormous amount of money [for the prize] is actually a modest amount of money” to such districts, he said.

A version of this article appeared in the March 20, 2002 edition of Education Week as Broad: New Award to Be ‘Nobel’ For Education


Jobs October 2021 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
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.
Data Webinar
Using Integrated Analytics To Uncover Student Needs
Overwhelmed by data? Learn how an integrated approach to data analytics can help.

Content provided by Instructure
Professional Development Online Summit What's Next for Professional Development: An Overview for Principals
Join fellow educators and administrators in this discussion on professional development for principals and administrators.

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 Staff Shortages Affect Students, Too. Here's Where Schools Are Shutting Down
A few months into the third academic year in a row disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, at least several dozen school buildings in numerous states have had to shut down due to inadequate staffing.
1 min read
A Brownsville Independent School District bus acts as a WI-FI hotspot for students needing to connect online for distance learning on the first day of class Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, in the parking lot of the Margaret M. Clark Aquatic Center in Brownsville, Texas. The bus is one of 20 hotspots throughout the city to help students have access to their online classes as part of the remote start to the school year due to COVID-19 pandemic.
Several shool buildings in different parts of the country have had to shut down in recent weeks due to a lack of available bus drivers.
Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald via AP
School & District Management Opinion We’re Facing a Looming Crisis of Principal Burnout
Caught in the crosshairs of a pandemic and rancorous partisan battles, many principals have never been more exhausted.
David E. DeMatthews
4 min read
Conceptual Illustration of burnt-out leader.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Getty
School & District Management What Teachers Value Most in Their Principals
For National Principals Month, we asked teachers what they love most about their principals. Here's what they had to say.
Hayley Hardison
1 min read
Illustration of job candidate and check list.
School & District Management How Staff Shortages Are Crushing Schools
Teachers are sacrificing their planning periods, students are arriving hours late, meals are out of whack, and patience is running thin.
11 min read
Stephanie LeBlanc, instructional strategist at Greeley Middle School in Cumberland Center, Maine.
Stephanie LeBlanc, an instructional strategist at Greely Middle School in Cumberland Center, Maine, has picked up numerous additional duties to help cover for staffing shortages at the school.
Ryan David Brown for Education Week