WASHINGTON, D.C. - Gwinnett County Public Schools may not have won the top award in the Broad Prize for Urban Education, but school system leaders still feel like winners.
And they should, the philanthropist who founded the award said Wednesday.
"Gwinnett County students, teachers, parents, administrators and the entire community deserve to celebrate," said Eli Broad, founder of The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, which sponsors The Broad Prize. "To be among the top five urban school districts in the nation is no easy feat - it's the result of smart student-focused strategies and hard work on the part of an entire community."
As a finalist for the prestigious award, Gwinnett County Public Schools will receive $250,000 for college scholarships for graduating seniors who show financial need and academic improvement.
"We were winners before we got here," Gwinnett County Board of Education Chairman Daniel Seckinger said after the award recipient was announced in Washington, D.C. "The worst thing that was going to happen was we were going to get $250,000 for our kids."
Gale Hey, an area superintendent, said being named a finalist is an affirmation of the district's hard work. She attributes the school system's success to its college preparatory classes and rigorous curriculum designed to get students ready for college.
"We're so proud to have been a part of this," Hey said.
A Houston-area school district where 84 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch won the nation's top prize in public education, winning $1 million in scholarship money for making strides in student achievement.
The Aldine Independent School District in Texas, which has been a finalist for four of the last six years, was honored for showing consistent student improvement over the last 10 years. The Broad Prize for Urban Education is given annually to an urban district that shows the strongest student performance while closing achievement gaps between ethnic and racial groups.
This is the third time a Texas district has won the award since the Broad Prize began in 2002. The Houston school district was the inaugural winner. The Brownsville school district, along Texas' border with Mexico, won last year.
The three other finalists - Broward County Public Schools in South Florida, the Long Beach Unified School District in California and the Socorro Independent School District in El Paso County, Texas - will each receive $250,000 in college scholarships.
The Broad Prize is open to the 100 largest urban school districts nationwide. Other previous winners included the New York City Department of Education, Boston Public Schools and the Long Beach (Calif.) Unified School District.
- The Associated Press contributed to this report.