The third time proved the charm for the New York City public school system, which won the prestigious Broad Prize for Urban Education for the progress of its reform efforts, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation announced here today.
The nation’s largest school district, with nearly 1.1 million students, had been a finalist for the award the past two years.
U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings praised officials of New York City and the four other districts that were selected as finalists for being “fellow warriors in raising student achievement.” New York and the runners-up—the Bridgeport public schools in Connecticut, the Long Beach Unified district in California, the Miami-Dade County schools in Florida, and the Northside Independent School District in San Antonio—were selected from among 100 school systems nationwide that were evaluated for the annual award.
“I want to say thank you to a leadership team that has been uncompromising about changing the face of public education,” Joel I. Klein, the chancellor of the New York City schools, said at the press conference held to announce the winner. He was flanked by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whom he credited with providing the leadership to improve the city’s schools when the mayor won control of the district in 2002.
Mr. Klein was also joined by Randi Weingarten, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, as well as other city and state education officials. “While it hasn’t all been sweet and nice, we have all come together to do what’s best for kids in New York City,” Mr. Klein said.
The Los Angeles-based Broad Foundation donates $500,000 for college scholarships to the winning district, and $125,000 to each of the runners-up.
The selection committee for the prize—which included former U.S. Secretaries of Education Rod Paige and Richard W. Riley, and three former governors—said that the New York City district stood out for raising student achievement to a greater degree than other disadvantaged districts in the state had done, for reducing the achievement gap between minority and white students, and for helping greater proportions of African-American and Hispanic students achieve at high levels.
Mr. Klein said that significantly more high school students in the city are taking college-entrance exams, and that graduation rates have been climbing.
‘Great Successes Out There’
The winner of the Broad award is usually a closely held secret. Even press kits were not distributed until after the announcement. But rumors had begun to circulate several days ago that New York City would be the winner. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., noted that his niece Caroline Kennedy, who had headed the district’s fund-raising efforts for two years ending in fall 2004, was in attendance, and wondered aloud if she had gotten “a heads-up that she didn’t tell me about.”
Eli Broad said at today’s announcement that he had created the prize in 2002 “to shine a spotlight on what is working in urban education,” an area that is more often the subject of criticism than praise.
“We knew,” he added, “that there were great successes out there.”