Broad Prize in Urban Education

Jennifer Medina reports in the New York Times today that New York City’s public school system is this year’s winner of the annual Broad Prize. The prize, awarded each year by the Eli Broad Foundation (assets: $ 836 million), goes to an urban school district that has made superior improvements in closing the achievement gap for poor and minority students. The money goes directly to graduating high school seniors for college scholarships.

In choosing New York for the $500,000 prize, the panel noted that the city outperformed other large urban districts in the state on math and reading tests and showed greater improvement at all grade levels. Low-income, black and Latino students also showed more improvement than their peers in other cities in the state, the foundation said.

The Broad Foundation takes a comprehensive approach to transforming public K-12 education in urban areas. Comprehensiveness makes the foundation somewhat less willing to ruffle feathers, particularly those of teachers unions, than some reformers would like. For example, they recently awarded $1 million to the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) to open the first union-run charter schools in NYC. And after the Broad award yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg and NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein marched with Randi Weingarten, the president of the city teachers’ union, and Ernest Logan, the president of the principals’ union.

The Broad Foundation’s investments in education include extensive support of personnel preparation programs, including Teach for America, and principal training programs like New Leaders for New Schools. The foundation is also a major supporter of nationwide charter school programs, like the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP).

The Broad Prize was started in 2002. Previous winners include Boston Public Schools (2006), Norfolk Public Schools in Virginia (2005), Garden Grove Unified School District in California (2004), Long Beach Unified School District in California (2003) and the Houston Independent School District (2002).

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