ORLANDO (CBSMiami/AP) – For the first time in its 12-year history, the Broad Prize for Urban Education has been split between two districts.

On Monday it was announced that Orange County Public Schools in Orlando and the Gwinnett County Public Schools in metro Atlanta would share the $1 million award right down the middle.

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The announcement was by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan during a ceremony in New York that included a speech by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The prize rewards school districts for improving achievement among disadvantaged students. Criteria include state test scores, graduation rates, performance compared with similar districts in the state, preparation of students for college, and the closing of the achievement gaps between ethnic groups and low-and-high income students.

The two winners were chosen from a pool of 75 eligible districts.

In a letter from the selection jury, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said the decision to pick two winners was made because of disappointment in how urban schools are progressing.

Jurors viewed progress in urban school districts “as incremental at best,” Rendell said in the letter.

Orange County Public Schools was chosen because of its impressive improvement in recent years, the jury said.

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It has embarked on a major capital campaign, built smaller neighborhood schools and increased the number of magnet schools in the districts. The district has more than 187,000 students and 13,000 teachers. More than a third of its students are Hispanic, and more than a quarter of the student population is black.

Gwinnett County Public Schools, which previously won the prize in 2010, was picked because it is “consistently one of the top performers in Georgia,” Rendell said. The district has almost 170,000 students and more than 11,500 teachers. Almost a third of its students are black, and more than a quarter are Hispanic.

“We wrestled with performance versus improvement, considering a steady, consistent district that has demonstrated sustainable gains and an up-and-coming urban district that has galvanized the entire community around raising student achievement — quickly and dramatically,” Rendell said. “In the end, we decided both finalists deserved to win the 2014 Broad Prize.”

The prize is sponsored by a foundation run by Edythe and Eli Broad, who made his fortune in home construction and insurance.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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