Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina is the 2011 winner of the Broad Prize for Urban Education, officials announced Tuesday. The award is given to urban districts that make big academic improvements while narrowing achievement gaps.
The other finalists were Broward County Public Schools (Florida), Miami-Dade County Public Schools (Florida) and Ysleta ISD (El Paso).
The winning district and all three finalists have been previous finalists for the award.
It had been former Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa's five-year goal to win the coveted prize, but DISD has yet to be a finalist. Most districts that win the award have made it to the final round in a prior year.
In 2005, Hinojosa announced a major reform effort, dubbed "Road to Broad," that was to drastically improve state test scores and lead to a Broad Prize win by 2010. But when DISD failed to be a finalist last year, Hinojosa said he meant the district would have the award in 2011 using 2010 test scores.
The goal wasn't reached either way and neither were the agressive academic targets under the reform plan, which included having 90 percent of students passing all parts of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills by 2010. That included all subgroups of students: black, Hispanic, white, economically disadvantaged, special-education and pupils with limited proficiency in English.
DISD board president Lew Blackburn said while being a finalist for the Broad Prize would be good, he is satisfied that the district is making gains. In 2010, 67 percent of DISD students passed all parts of the TAKS. That's an increase from 54 percent in 2006.
"I think the district is doing a better job academically and financially," he said. "We still have a few areas to improve on, but the district is doing pretty well. I've never been one for trying to get a prize; I've never gone after these accolades. It's more about let's do a great job. If we do a great job, we get recognized."
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined philanthropist Eli Broad and singer-songwriter John Legend to announce the winner on Tuesday at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will receive $550,000 in college scholarships. The three finalist districts will each get $150,000 in college scholarships.
A review board of 21 people, including education researchers, policy leaders and leading university executives, selected the finalists for the award. They looked at areas that included academic performance and improvement on state exams; narrowing income and ethnic achievement gaps; and improving college readiness.