One of the nation’s top education prizes was won by the Miami-Dade County Public Schools for its dramatic gains in achievements by black and Hispanic students and for raising academic standards across the board.
The Broad Prize for Urban Education brings national prestige to the district — and more than a half-million dollars in scholarships to Miami-Dade students graduating in 2013 who demonstrate need and show academic improvement.
The district, which has been a five-time finalist for the prize, won this time with a unanimous vote by the 11-member jury.
“Miracles are possible, even when you have to wait five years,” said Superintendent Alberto Carvalho as he accepted the award on Tuesday in New York. He and several School Board members were at the ceremony at the Museum of Modern Art, where the announcement was made.
School Board Chairwoman Perla Tabares Hantman said the prize reflects the work of teachers, the board, the superintendent and students.
“This is a long-overdue recognition of the phenomenal turnaround that we have seen in Miami-Dade County Public Schools,” she said. “It still hasn’t sunk in.”
Meanwhile, Miami-Dade school district employees erupted into cheers at the School Board auditorium in Miami, where they watched the ceremony in a live broadcast.
Sharon Watson, president of the Miami-Dade County Council of PTA/PTSAs, said the prize is not only prestigious but means cash for eligible kids: “It means such wonderful things for students to have the scholarship money available.”
And fellow council officer Joseph Gebara unfolded a homemade sign: “No Longer Susan Lucci. Go MDCPS. The Broad Prize is ours at last!!!”
The Broad (rhymes with “road”) is the largest education award in the country. It aims to combine the spirit of the Pulitzer Prize with the reward of the Nobel Prize, giving $1 million in scholarship money.
The California-based Broad Foundation started the prize in 2002 to recognize urban school districts that have shown the strongest student improvement and closed achievement gaps for poor and minority students. The biggest 75 school districts in the country are automatically considered for the prize; districts cannot apply.
Eli Broad, founder of the foundation that awards the prize, is a Detroit native who now lives in Los Angeles.
“What is encouraging about Miami-Dade is its sustainable improvement over time,” he told The Associated Press.
This year, Miami-Dade County Public Schools beat finalists Palm Beach County, as well as Corona-Norco Unified School District in Southern California and the Houston Independent School District, which was the inaugural winner of prize 10 years ago. Those schools will receive $150,000 each.
Last year, Miami-Dade and Broward school districts were finalists but lost to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina. In all, Miami-Dade had been a finalist in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2011.
U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan, in announcing the prize on Tuesday, commented, “I commend the entire Miami-Dade community for establishing a district-wide culture of results that empowers teachers and students, puts more resources into helping children in the lowest-performing schools, and is helping narrow the achievement gap.”
Specifically, Miami-Dade — the nation’s fourth-largest school district with some 345,000 students — was recognized for its successes with minority students, including: