For the first time in the 13-year run of the Broad Prize, the prestigious award given to the best urban school districts, the prize was given to two districts in a tie. The shortlist for the award was already relatively straightforward, as usually the committee reveals four or five finalists, whereas this year they only revealed two. This hinted at the possibility of Gwinnett County Public Schools outside Atlanta and Orange County Public Schools in Orlando tying for the award and splitting the $1 million prize. These two districts set themselves apart from 73 other urban districts in the country to win the honor. The two districts impressed the judges for different reasons.
“We wrestled with performance versus improvement,” former Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, a member of the selection jury, said in a press release. “We were impressed with Gwinnett County’s steady, sustainable gains and with Orange County’s urgency and commitment to improve student achievement quickly. In the end, we decided that both finalists deserved to win the 2014 Broad Prize.”
This is Gwinnett County’s second time to receive the award. The district won the Broad Prize in 2010 and was a finalist in 2009. On the other hand, this is Orange County’s first time as a finalist. The two school districts have similarly sized student bodies and have been praised for making strides in the college readiness and academic progress of students. These two districts have highlighted different educational strategies which led to winning the award.
Broad Prize Selection
The largest 75 urban districts in the country are automatically nominated for the Broad Prize each year. A review board of prominent educators, policymakers, and university executives, among others, selected the finalists for the 2014 prize. Afterward, a selection jury of nine educators and politicians, including two former U.S. secretaries of education, decided on the tie between Gwinnett County and Orange County. Members of the selection jury considered aspects such as academic improvement, SAT participation, and overall performance. Each district will be given $500,000 to be used to provide college scholarships for the graduating seniors of 2015.
The Broad Prize is awarded by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, a philanthropic organization that emphasizes advancements in education, science, and the arts. Both Eli and Edythe Broad are graduates of Detroit Public Schools, and Eli Broad attended Michigan State University.