The $1 million prize for urban education was established by philanthropists Eli and Edyth Broad. The award honors school districts that demonstrate the greatest overall performance and improvement in student achievement while reducing the achievement gaps among low-income students and students of color.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined Mr. and Mrs. Broad and Rt. Hon. Tony Blair, former prime minister of Great Britain, at the Time Warner Center to announce Orange County was a co-winner, along with Gwinnett County.
A nine-member bipartisan jury of prominent leaders from education and public service — including two former U.S. Secretaries of Education, a former senator and two former governors — decided to award the 2014 Broad Prize to the two districts to inspire more school leaders around the country to high levels of performance.
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, a member of the selection jury, said: “We wrestled with performance versus improvement. We were impressed with Gwinnett County’s steady, sustainable gains and with Orange County’s urgency and commitment to improve student achievement quickly.”
Bruce Reed, president of the Broad Foundation, said: “Orange County demonstrates that a sense of urgency and focus can improve student achievement in a hurry. These winners have kept their eye on the prize, which is to help all students reach their potential.”
As winners of the 2014 Broad Prize, Orange County Public Schools will receive $500,000 in college scholarships for their high school seniors who graduate in 2015. Broad Prize scholarships are awarded to students who demonstrate significant financial need and who have improved their grades during high school. Scholarship recipients who enroll in four-year colleges will receive up to $20,000, paid over four years, and those who enroll in two-year colleges will receive up to $5,000, paid over two years.
Although improvement can and must continue in Orange County Public Schools, it is a tremendous honor for our students and staff to have received the Broad Prize. The entire Orange County community was also recognized numerous times as a foundational support.
It was truly a day we will all remember.
Christine Moore is an Orange County School Board District 7 member.