HISD Repeats as Broad Prize Finalist

Houston among nation’s top four urban districts for second straight year 

For the second consecutive year, HISD has emerged from the pack of the nation’s 75 largest school districts to be named a finalist for the most coveted honor a public school system can win: The Broad Prize for Urban Education.

Houston ISD high school seniors are now guaranteed at least $150,000 and as much as $550,000 in college scholarships if the district wins the top prize.  The award is given to the one urban school district in America that has consistently demonstrated the greatest overall performance and improvement in student achievement while reducing achievement gaps among poor and minority students.  Finalists were determined based upon a wide-ranging review of student achievement data from the 2008-2009 school year through the 2011-2012 school year in an effort to reward consistency.

The Houston Independent School District won the first ever Broad Prize in 2002, and was among the four finalists in 2012. (Below, HISD Superintendent Terry Grier extends his personal thanks and appreciation for Team HISD in becoming Great All Over.)

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/62887882]

“Being named a Broad Prize finalist in 2012 showed the nation that HISD’s students were on the right track, thanks to our great principals, teachers and staff,” said Superintendent Terry Grier.  “Earning that distinction two years in a row demonstrates the kind of consistent excellence that we must sustain, if we truly expect our city’s schools to become great all over.”

Dr. Grier attributed the consistently strong performance of HISD students to the Board of Education’s commitment to adhering to the Strategic Direction adopted with significant community input in 2010.  The Strategic Direction dictates that HISD focus its efforts and resources on five core initiatives:

  • Placing an effective teacher in every classroom
  • Placing an effective principal to every school
  • Rigorous instructional standards and supports
  • Data-driven accountability
  • Creating a culture of trust through action


“All school leaders say they place the interest of students above all else,” Dr. Grier said.  “In Houston, our school board really means it, and their unwavering dedication to these core principles is driving everything we do for our students.” (Below, Houston ISD Board President Anna Eastman reacts to the news HISD is a finalist for the Broad Prize.)

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/62896502]

The Broad Foundation announced the 2013 finalists on Thursday.  The other finalists are the Corona-Norco Unified School District in Riverside County, Calif., also a finalist last year, and first-time finalists Cumberland County Schools, N.C., and the San Diego Unified School District, where Dr. Grier served as superintendent before coming to Houston in 2009.

“Houston should be commended for its steadfast commitment to improving student achievement,” said Eli Broad, founder of The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, which awards The Broad Prize. “But even while these finalist districts are moving in the right direction, there is still a long road ahead before we can truly celebrate high levels of academic success. And as we look at other urban districts across the country, there is significantly more progress that needs to be made.”

Here is how the Broad Foundation explained the selection process, and why Houston made the final cut:

This year’s four finalists were selected by a review board of 17 prominent education researchers, policy leaders, practitioners and executives from leading universities, education associations, civil rights advocacy organizations, think-tanks and foundations. The review board evaluated publicly available academic achievement data that were compiled and analyzed by MPR Associates, Inc. a leading national education research consulting firm.

In selecting the finalists, the review board looks for urban school districts that show the greatest overall performance and improvement in student achievement while reducing achievement gaps among poor and minority students. Among the data they consider are SAT, ACT and Advanced Placement participation rates and outcomes, graduation rates, state assessments in reading, math and science, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, student demographics including poverty, state test rigor, per pupil expenditures and district size. The Broad Foundation does not play a role in selecting the finalists or the winner.

Among the reasons that HISD was chosen as a 2013 Broad Prize finalist:

HISD has the highest SAT participation rate among other urban districts around the country for all students and specifically Hispanic and African-American students. In 2012, 87 percent of Houston’s students participated in the SAT, and 84 percent of Hispanic and 80 percent of African-American students took the exam. Even with a poverty rate 60 percent higher than the state average, HISD’s SAT participation rate is about two-thirds higher than the state’s average participation rate.

The increases in participation in Advanced Placement exams for all students and specifically for Hispanic students were the highest among other urban districts around the country. For example, between 2009 and 2012, the average annual increase in the AP participation rate by Houston’s Hispanic students was five times greater than the average among the 75 Broad Prize-eligible districts.

HISD’s overall graduation rate improved twice as fast as other urban districts around the country. HISD’s graduation rate, as shown by the average of three nationally recognized graduate rate estimation methods, increased 12 percentage points between 2006 and 2009, compared to an average 6 percent increase for the 75 Broad Prize-eligible districts over the same period.

Houston narrowed low-income and Hispanic achievement gaps. In recent years, HISD narrowed the achievement gap between its low-income students and the state’s non-low-income students and between its Hispanic students and the state’s white students in elementary, middle and high school reading and math.

For more information about The Broad Prize, please visit www.broadprize.org.


Founded by entrepreneur Eli Broad and his wife Edythe, both graduates of Detroit Public Schools, The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation is a philanthropy that seeks to ensure that every student in an urban public school has the opportunity to succeed. Bringing together top education experts and practitioners, the foundation funds system-wide programs and policies that strengthen public schools by creating environments that allow good teachers to do great work and enable students of all backgrounds to learn and thrive. The Broad Foundation’s Internet address is www.broadeducation.org, and updates are available on Twitter @broadfoundation.