The 2012 Broad Prize for Urban Education has been awarded to Florida's Miami-Dade County Public Schools. The prize, which is awarded yearly to an urban school district that shows consistent improvement in student achievement, comes with a purse of $550,000 to be used for college scholarships for high school seniors graduating in 2013.
This is Miami-Dade's first win, but the district has made the final round of consideration for the prize on five previous occasions. It is the fourth-largest school district in the country, and its schools serve nearly 350,000 students. Over 100,000 of those are high-schoolers.
Miami-Dade faces challenges common to large urban districts, as its student body is 90% black or Hispanic, and over 74% of its students come from low-income families. The gains the district has made over the last several years have been nothing short of amazing. Between 2006 and 2009, high school graduation rates in Miami-Dade went up by more than 14%. The jump was accompanied by increase in college preparedness and an uptick in the number of students taking college entrance exams like the SAT and earning college credit via Advanced Placement courses.
This consistent growth in student achievement is what set Miami-Dade apart from the 74 other districts eligible for the country's largest education award, Eli Broad, founder of the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, which awards the $1 million prize, said in a statement today.
"What is encouraging about Miami-Dade is its sustainable improvement over time," Broad said. "Their gains are a testament to the hard-working teachers, administrators and parents who have embraced innovative new methods to modernize schools and ensure that students of all backgrounds get the support they need."
Ever since the administration of Governor Jeb Bush, Florida has been at the forefront of the education reform movement. Florida schools are eager to take advantage of every innovation in classroom instruction, particularly blended learning and digital education. This greater integration of technology into the classroom also allows state education officials to collect data on the progress made by every student and use that information both to guide the reform efforts and assess teacher quality.
Moreover, schools provide tools to give parents up to date information on their childrens' progress, including real-time attendance data, homework, test and quiz grades.
Miami-Dade was chosen from four finalists by a selection jury made up of leaders from the business, government, and public service communities, including former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Mortimer Zuckerman, editor-in-chief of U.S. News & World Report. The other finalists—Corona-Norco Unified School District in California, the Palm Beach County School District in Florida, and the Houston Independent School District—will each receive $150,000 in college scholarships.