|Eli Broad, left, Edyth Broad, Ed. Sec. Arne |
Duncan, Board Pres. John Lee Evans, Supt.
Cindy Marten, retired Supt. Bill Kowba
"We're thrilled that San Diego Unified has been recognized as one of the four best school districts in the United States," said Kevin Beiser, Board of Education Vice President and Subdistrict B representative. "This is a big win for the teachers that work constantly with our students to improve their learning, and a recognition of the hard work done by support staff in making a great environment for our students."
Superintendent Cindy Marten and retired Superintendent Bill Kowba -- on whose watch the nomination was announced -- attended the award ceremony in Washington, D.C.
"It was an honor to be recognized by The Broad Foundation," said Superintendent Cindy Marten. "I am grateful to our team of employees who work every day in-and-out of the classrooms for our children.
"This honor reaffirms that our community-based reform efforts and singular focus on student achievement are making a difference."
Districts do not apply for this prize. Staff from the Broad Foundation looks at test scores and other data from the 75 largest school districts and picks four finalists. A team of independent educational experts then analyze the districts and one winner is selected. Only the four top districts receive scholarship money.
In its announcement of the award, the Broad Foundation noted San Diego Unified's progress in key areas.
San Diego Unified has more than 110,000 students-65 percent of whom are low-income. Among the reasons San Diego schools stood out among the nation's largest urban school districts:
- San Diego students outperform students in other California districts with similar poverty rates. In 2012, proficiency rates for San Diego Unified students surpassed expectations compared to other California districts given the poverty level of families in the district. Proficiency rates for San Diego students were above expected across all subjects (reading, math and science) and all school levels (elementary, middle and high school).
- San Diego Unified narrowed achievement gaps. In recent years, San Diego narrowed the achievement gaps between its Hispanic students and white students across California at every school level and in every subject. The district also narrowed the gap between its Hispanic and white students in elementary, middle and high school reading and science, and in elementary and high school math. San Diego also achieved a smaller achievement gap between its low-income students and California's non-low-income students in elementary, middle and high school science and in elementary and high school reading and math.
- San Diego Unified's low-income, Hispanic and African-American high school students showed more improvement in science than other California students. In recent years, San Diego Unified was in the top 30 percent of districts across the state for increasing the percentage of low-income, Hispanic and African-American high school students performing at the highest achievement levels on the state science assessment. Low-income students in San Diego, for instance, increased their performance by 8 percentage points in high school science between 2010 and 2012, while California overall saw scores increase by only 3 percentage points over the same period.
Kowba, who retired June 30, said he was "grateful to our San Diego Unified employees for their dedication to our students."
The $1 million Broad Prize is the largest education award in the nation. It recognizes urban school districts that demonstrate the strongest student achievement and improvement while reducing achievement gaps among low-income students and students of color.
The $150,000 in scholarships will go a long way to help the Class of 2014 succeed, said Marten.
"I'm excited for our students who will receive Broad scholarships," she said. "I can't wait to get back to San Diego."
The 75 largest urban school districts in America are automatically eligible for the award each year.
Houston Independent School District will receive $550,000 in college scholarships for high school seniors who will graduate in 2014. San Diego Unified, along with Corona-Norco Unified School District in Riverside County, Calif., and Cumberland County Schools in North Carolina, will each receive $150,000 in college scholarships.
The Broad Prize is awarded by The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. Founded by entrepreneur Eli Broad and his wife Edythe, both graduates of Detroit Public Schools, The Broad Foundation is a philanthropic organization that seeks to ensure that every student in an urban public school has the opportunity to succeed.