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Houston ISD Among Four Finalists for Nation’s Most Prestigious Education Award

The wait is nearly over for the Houston Independent School District and the three other national finalists for the 2012 Broad Prize for Urban Education.

On Tuesday, Oct. 23 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan will announce the name of the school system that beat out 75 national competitors for the title of best urban district in America.  All four finalists made the cut for the Broad (rhymes with “road”) Prize because they demonstrated the greatest overall performance and improvement in student achievement while reducing achievement gaps among poor and minority students from 2008 to 2011.

The other finalists this year are: Corona-Norco Unified School District in Riverside County, Calif., Miami-Dade County Public Schools, and The School District of Palm Beach County, Fla.  Aside from bragging rights, the winning district earns $550,000 in college scholarships for students who graduate at the end of this school year.  The other finalists receive $150,000 in scholarship money from The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.

HISD staff will gather at the Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center to watch the announcement live, beginning at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.  The announcement will also be carried live online at www.houstonisd.org.

“We are honored to have the national education spotlight on the students, teachers, and staff who make Houston schools great,” said HISD Board of Education President Michael Lunceford.  “We have high expectations for every student, and we are proud that more of them are rising to meet the challenge each day.”

Members of the HISD Board of Education and Superintendent Terry Grier will be among those in New York City on Tuesday for the announcement.

“For years, HISD has been led by a visionary Board of Education that is willing to make the tough decisions that consistently put the interests of children first,” Dr. Grier said.  “It is that unwavering focus on high academic standards, and hiring and retaining effective teachers and principals that led directly to the impressive progress that Houston’s children are making in the classroom.”

 Houston won the first ever Broad Prize in 2002, and could be the first two-time winner.  Among the reasons why Houston ISD was chosen as a 2012 Broad Prize finalist:

  • 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.
  • 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.

This year’s four finalists were selected by a review board of 13 prominent education researchers, policy leaders, practitioners and executives from leading universities, education associations, civil rights advocates, 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 urban 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. 

Over a two-month period last spring, teams of educational researchers and practitioners led by the education consulting company RMC Research Corporation conducted a four-day site visit in each finalist district using a research-based rubric for district quality to gather qualitative information, interview district administrators, conduct focus groups with teachers and principals and observe classrooms. The teams also interviewed parents, community leaders, school board members and union representatives. A selection jury of prominent individuals from business, industry, education and public service then chose the winning school district after reviewing both the student achievement data and the qualitative site visit reports.

The Broad Foundation does not play a role in selecting the finalists or the winner.

Palm Beach County and Corona-Norco are both first-time finalists, and Miami-Dade is a five-time finalist.

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