Two College Board Member Districts Win Broad Prize for Urban Education
Two College Board Member Districts Win Broad Prize for Urban EducationAbby Hexter, Assistant Director, Member Communications, The College Board
For the first time since its inception in 2002, two districts were selected to win the Broad Prize for Urban Education: Gwinnett County Public Schools (GA) and Orange County Public Schools (FL). The $1 million prize is awarded each year to districts that make the greatest strides in improving academic achievement and closing the achievement gap for minority and low-income students. The Gwinnett and Orange County school districts, both members of the College Board, will split the award; each will receive $500,000 in college scholarships for their high school seniors.
These two districts were honored at an award ceremony in New York City on Sept. 22 by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. More than 200 educators and thought leaders from across the country were in attendance, including College Board President David Coleman, who congratulated the winners on their excellent work to propel students forward.
Gwinnett County is the largest school district in the state of Georgia, serving over 170,000 students, 57 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. According to the district’s website, almost 14,000 students took AP® courses during the 2013-14 school year, with 56 percent scoring a 3 or higher on more than 26,000 exams. “We are being successful in closing the achievement gap, but we still are challenged in terms of poverty,” said Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks in the 2014 Broad Prize Finalist Video. “The hope that I have for Gwinnett County Public Schools in the future is that we will continue to be a school district that believes we can do better. We never want to be satisfied with the status quo.”
Orange County is the nation’s 10th-largest school system, serving more than 187,000 students — 55 percent of whom are from low-income backgrounds. Orange County has been successful in increasing AP participation rates; AP participation by Hispanic juniors and seniors increased by 7 percent between 2011 and 2013. “We use data on a regular basis to identify children who should be able to succeed in some of our higher-level classes — AP classes, for example — and then encourage those children to get them into those classes, [offering] support and scaffolding around them to make sure they can be successful,” Orange County Superintendent Barbara Jenkins said in the finalist video. “Public education is really the lynchpin of our democracy. It is the only way some of our children can see their way to a different future.”
Superintendents Wilbanks and Jenkins both serve on the College Board’s Superintendent Advisory Council, a group of superintendents from around the country who meet with the College Board’s senior leadership to discuss issues and best practices around college and career readiness.