Southern school districts are prominent among the five finalists vying for the top prize in urban education.
This year’s finalists for the Broad Prize for Urban Education, announced last week, are the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., school district; the Gwinnett County, Ga., school district near Atlanta; the Montgomery County, Md., public schools outside Washington; the Socorro Independent School District in El Paso, Texas; and the Ysleta Independent School District, also in El Paso.
Both Gwinnett County and Socorro were finalists for the prize last year, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg was a finalist in 2004.
The award, started in 2002 by the Los Angeles-based Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, gives $1 million in scholarships to the winning district for high school seniors who graduate in 2011. The other four districts each receive $250,000 in scholarships.
The districts, which all serve significant percentages of low-income and minority students, have made notable gains in reducing the achievement gaps between black and Hispanic students and their white peers, the foundation said.
In addition, the 18-person review board was impressed by the gains the districts made in college readiness, as measured by the increased participation of minority students in the ACT and SAT college-entrance exams, as well as the Advanced Placement exams, for which high school students can earn college credit.
“At a time when public schools are in crisis, these five urban school districts are an example for other struggling districts because they have demonstrated that students can achieve and improvement is possible even in challenging times,” Eli Broad, the founder of the Broad Foundation, said in a statement. “It is our hope that other districts around the country will learn from the practices these five districts are employing that are leading to sustainable academic gains.”
Over the next two months, review teams will visit the finalist districts and interview school administrators and others to compile reports on the districts to be used in determining the final winner.
Last years winner was the Aldine, Texas, district, which was a four-time finalist. The winner of the 2010 Broad Prize is scheduled to be announced Oct. 19 in New York City.
A version of this article appeared in the April 07, 2010 edition of Education Week as Five School Districts Are Named Broad Prize Finalists