The Gwinnett County school system will share the $1 million Broad Prize for Urban Education with Florida’s Orange County Schools. The results of the competition were announced this afternoon at a New York City ceremony. This is the first year in the thirteen year history of the prize that the prize was awarded to two districts, each of which will receive $500,000 in scholarship money for students graduating high school in the class of 2015.
“We wrestled with performance versus improvement,” said former Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, a member of the selection jury. “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.”
“We may have a long way to go in this country to improve urban public education, but the school systems in Gwinnett and Orange counties give us good reason to celebrate what we’ve accomplished so far,” said Bruce Reed, president of The Broad Foundation. “Gwinnett County shows how a district can improve and sustain student performance over many years, while Orange County demonstrates that a sense of urgency and focus can improve student achievement in a hurry. These two winners have kept their eye on the prize, which is to help all students reach their potential.”
2014 marks the second time GCPS has won the prize. After winning in 2010, prize rules kept them from competing again for three years. 2014 is the first year the district was again eligible to win. This was the first time in the history of the prize that only two school districts were nominated for the prize. In previous years, five districts were chosen as semifinalists from 75 districts chosen for consideration.
The press release from the Broad Foundation provided several reasons for Gwinnett County winning the prize. 88% of Gwinnett County seniors took the SAT test in 2013, including 90% of black seniors and 70% of Hispanic seniors, the highest rate among the 75 schools studied. The average percentage of black and Hispanic seniors in the 75 districts as in the low 40s.
More GCPS black students are reaching advanced academic levels than in other Georgia districts. In 2013, Gwinnett County ranked among the top 10 percent of districts statewide for the percentage of black students at all education levels who performed at the highest achievement level on state-mandated tests in reading, math and science. For example, 40 percent of Gwinnett County’s black elementary school students reached the advanced academic level on the state science assessment, compared with 20 percent of black elementary school students in the rest of the state.
In addition, a greater percentage of low-income students are reaching advanced academic levels in Gwinnett County than in other districts in Georgia. In 2013, Gwinnett ranked among the top 20 percent of districts statewide for the percentage of low-income students at all education levels (elementary, middle and high school) performing at the highest achievement level in reading, math and science.