Houston ISD Named a Finalist for Largest Education Prize in the Country

The Houston Independent School District was recognized today by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation as one of four finalists for the 2012 Broad Prize, an annual $1 million award that honors urban school districts that have made the highest gains in student achievement and in closing the achievement gap.

The award is the largest education prize in the country and HISD is one of only two school districts in the country to return as a finalist after receiving the honor.

A 2012 Broad Prize win would mean HISD’s 2013 graduating seniors would receive $550,000 in college scholarships. As a finalist, they are guaranteed at least $150,000.

Among the reasons the Broad Foundation listed for naming Houston ISD as a finalist were:

  • HISD’s African-American graduation rate improved faster than in other urban districts nationally. The graduation rate of Houston’s African-American students, as shown by the average of three nationally recognized graduation rate estimation methods, increased 13 percentage points from 2006 to 2009.
  • HISD increased the percentage of Hispanic and African-American students taking college readiness exams more quickly than other urban districts nationally.
  • Between 2008 and 2011, SAT participation rates for HISD’s Hispanic students increased by 15 percentage points.
  • In this same period, Advanced Placement (AP) exam participation by Hispanic students increased 13 percentage points, an average of about 4 percentage points per year-an improvement rate that ranked in the top 10 percent of all 75 Broad Prize-eligible districts.
  • And in 2011 alone, the percentage of HISD’s African-American students taking an AP exam-23 percent-ranked in the top 10 percent of Broad-Prize-eligible districts.
  • Similarly, the percent of HISD’s Hispanic students taking an AP exam in 2011—29 percent—ranked in the top 20 percent of eligible districts.
  • A greater percentage of Hispanic and low-income students reach advanced academic levels in Houston than in other urban districts in Texas.  In 2011, the percentage of HISD’s Hispanic students that performed at the highest achievement level (Commended) in math and science at all school levels (elementary, middle, high school) ranked in the top 30 percent statewide compared to Hispanic students in other Texas districts. In addition, the percentage of Houston’s low-income students that performed at the highest achievement level in math at all school levels and in elementary and middle school science ranked in the top 30 percent statewide compared to low-income students in other Texas districts.

The other finalists this year are: Corona-Norco Unified School District in Riverside County, California, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, and The School District of Palm Beach County, Florida.

Educational researchers will be conducting a four-day visit to each finalist district over the next two months to interview parents, community leaders, school board members, and union representatives. They will also review qualitative data for each finalist.  A selection jury will then choose the winning district after reviewing each of the reports. The announcement will be made on Tuesday, October 23.