HALLANDALE BEACH (CBS4) – As Broward County Public Schools have learned, sometimes it pays to be teacher’s pet.

For the third time, the Broward County school district has been nominated for the prestigious Broad Prize, the largest education prize in the country. The award is given annually to the urban district demonstrating the “greatest overall performance and improvement in student achievement in the nation while reducing income and ethnic achievement gaps.”

With 75 major districts qualifying nationwide, the review board chose their finalists by evaluating many areas of improvement. They used standardized test scores and graduation rates to assess changes in college readiness. The board also looked at performance on state tests to see how the districts stacked up to districts within the state as well as other similar low-income districts.

After all of these stats were checked, Broward County made it to the final four along with its neighbor, Miami-Dade County, as well as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina and the Ysleta Independent School District in El Paso, Texas.

Considering all of the controversies the Broward School District has faced in recent years, their nomination is pretty impressive. With job cuts in the thousands and with several school board members arrested, it might seem like the district has been having a bad couple years.

But while the district’s bureaucratic issues may be troubling, Superintendant James F. Notter said their commitment to improving equality and quality in education has not wavered.

“We continue to insulate our children in our classrooms from what’s going on around them and you can tell when you look at the closing of achievement gaps between whites and minorities,” said Notter.

As founder Eli Broad noted after the finalists were announced, “it is significant that all four finalists have been finalists before. One of the most difficult challenges in public education is sustaining progress, but these districts have demonstrated that their steady focus on student achievement has indeed resulted in continued academic gains.”

On Wednesday, a panel of education experts kicked off a four day tour of the Broward County School District by meeting with Superintendant Notter and Principle Sharon Ludwig at Hallandale Elementary School.
“I think it’s going to be incredibly tough, we’re seeing such wonderful things in South Florida,” said Ph.D Shelley Bilig with the Broad Foundation.

After all of the finalist districts are toured and observed, a panel of “former U.S. Secretaries of education, governors, university presidents and CEOs” will choose a winner. The $550,000 first place prize will go towards college scholarships for the senior class of 2012. All other finalists receive a $150,000 prize towards college scholarships. Last year, 106 high school seniors got scholarships from through the Broad Foundation’s prize.


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