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The School District of Palm Beach County, Fla. was named for the first time today by The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation as one of four urban school districts in the country selected as a finalist for the 2012 Broad Prize for Urban Education.  If the district wins the award this fall, Palm Beach County high school seniors who graduate in 2013 will receive $550,000 in college scholarships, but they are guaranteed at least $150,000 in college scholarships since the district is a finalist for the award.

The Broad (rhymes with “road”) Prize for Urban Education is an annual $1 million award—the largest education prize in the country—that honors urban school districts that demonstrate the greatest overall performance and improvement in student achievement while reducing achievement gaps among poor and minority students.

The other finalists this year are: Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Corona-Norco Unified School District in Riverside County, Calif. and the Houston Independent School District. The winner of the 2012 Broad Prize will be announced on Tuesday, Oct. 23 in New York City at the Museum of Modern Art.

“Palm Beach joins the ranks of the nation’s most improved urban school districts for the first time this year,” said Eli Broad, founder of The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. “While all urban districts have much more work to do to help students of all backgrounds thrive, Palm Beach County can take pride that its district stands out nationally for helping students improve academically.”

Seventy-five of the nation’s largest urban school districts were automatically eligible and considered for the 2012 Broad Prize.  School districts cannot apply or be nominated.

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 the 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 Palm Beach County was chosen as a 2012 Broad Prize finalist:

·         A greater percentage of Hispanic students reach advanced academic levels in Palm Beach County than in other Florida urban districts—and at faster rates.  In 2011, the percentage of Palm Beach County’s Hispanic students performing at the highest achievement levels (Levels 4 and 5) ranked in the top 30 percent statewide compared to Hispanic students in other Florida districts. This was the case in science at all school levels (elementary, middle, and high school) and in middle and high school reading and math. Between 2008 and 2011, Palm Beach County also was more successful than at least 70 percent of Florida districts at increasing the percentage of Hispanic students who performed at the highest achievement levels. This was the case in middle and high school reading, math, and science. For example, the percentage of Hispanic students performing at the highest achievement levels increased by 9 percentage points in middle school science, while the average increase for other Florida districts was just 4 percentage points during that period.

·         Higher graduation rate than other urban districts nationwide, and bigger increases over time for Black and Hispanic students.  Palm Beach County’s 2009 graduation rate—74 percent, as shown by the average of three nationally recognized graduation rate estimation methods—ranked in the top 20 percent of all 75 Broad-Prize eligible districts. In addition, between 2006 and 2009, Palm Beach County’s Black student graduation rate increased 21 percentage points, Hispanic student graduation rate increased 13 percentage points, and the district’s overall graduation rate increased 18 percentage points.

·         A greater increase in the percentage of Black students participating in college readiness exams in Palm Beach County than in other urban districts nationwide.  Between 2008 and 2011, participation rates on Advanced Placement exams by Black students in Palm Beach County increased 8 percentage points.  An approximate 3 percentage point increase on average per year—this improvement rate ranked in the top 10 percent of all eligible districts.

Over the next two months, teams of educational researchers and practitioners led by the education consulting company RMC Research Corporation will conduct 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 will also interview parents, community leaders, school board members and union representatives. A selection jury of prominent individuals from business, industry, education and public service will then choose the winning school district after reviewing both the student achievement data and the qualitative site visit reports.

Palm Beach and Corona-Norco are both first-time finalists; Houston won the inaugural Broad Prize in 2002, and Miami-Dade is a five-time finalist—tying the record of Broad Prize winners Boston Public Schools and the Long Beach Independent School District.

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

Founded by self-made 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.

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