The prestigious Broad Prize – the largest education award given to U.S. public schools – was awarded to two districts this year for the first time ever. The school districts in Georgia and Florida will split the $1 million prize.
Gwinnett County Public Schools in Atlanta and the Orange County Public Schools in Orlando will both receive $500,000 in college scholarships for their graduating seniors.
The schools are judged on a number of items including state test scores, graduation rates, performance compared with similar state districts, college preparedness, and demonstrated progress on closing the achievement gap between ethnic groups and low- and high- income students.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the winners at a ceremony in New York on Monday. The two winners of the Broad Prize for Urban Education were picked out of 75 eligible districts across the country.
The Gwinnett County school system won the Broad award back in 2010, as it is one of the consistent top performers in Georgia.
This year, the Orange County Public Schools were recognized for steady improvement in recent years with strong community support, the selection jury said.
“We wrestled with performance versus improvement, considering a steady, consistent district that has demonstrated sustainable gains and an up-and-coming urban district that has galvanized the entire community around raising student achievement – quickly and dramatically,” Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said in a letter from the jury. “In the end, we decided both finalists deserved to win the 2014 Broad Prize.”
He added that the districts “are doing something right with leadership and laser-like focus.”