Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) has been named a finalist for the prestigious Broad Prize for Urban Education, giving MCPS students access to as much as $1 million in college scholarships. The Broad Prize is the largest education prize in the country.
MCPS was chosen as a finalist from a pool of 100 school districts that includes the nation’s largest systems and other districts that serve a high percentage of economically disadvantaged students and those who come from minority subgroups.
MCPS is the first school district in Maryland and the Washington region to be named a finalist for this prestigious award. A district cannot apply or be nominated for the Broad Prize. A review board composed of education researchers, policy leaders, practitioners and executives chooses the finalists based on publicly available data.
The district’s designation as a finalist provides MCPS graduates from the class of 2011 with access to at least $250,000 in college scholarships. These scholarships are given not just to students who have the highest grades, but also to those who have demonstrated steady improvement throughout their schooling and have a strong desire to go to college. The winner of the Broad Prize receives $1 million in college scholarships and will be announced on October 19 during a ceremony at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
"Being a Broad Prize finalist is a tremendous honor for Montgomery County Public Schools and is an acknowledgement of all the hard work that has gone into improving student performance and closing the achievement gap," said Patricia O'Neill, president of the Montgomery County Board of Education.
Superintendent of Schools Jerry D. Weast said much of the credit belongs to the outstanding teachers and staff at MCPS.
"I have always said that we have the best staff in the nation and today that has been affirmed by our district being named a Broad Prize finalist," Dr. Weast said. "Our staff is dedicated and driven to provide a world-class education to all students, regardless of race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status."
The Broad Prize was established in 2002 by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, which seeks to advance public good in education, science and the arts.
"The Broad Foundation's philanthropic efforts are directly in line with our mission to prepare students for success in college and the work place," Dr. Weast said. "The scholarships from the Broad Prize will make the dream of college a reality for many of our students. It is my hope we can bring the $1 million prize to Montgomery County for the benefit of our students."
Among the reasons the Broad Foundation cited in naming MCPS as a finalist:
· Montgomery County, which served nearly 36,000 low-income students in 2009 (now up to 41,500), outperformed other Maryland districts that serve students with similar family incomes in reading and math at all school levels (elementary, middle and high school), according to the Broad Prize methodology.
· In 2009, Montgomery County’s African American students achieved higher average proficiency rates than their counterparts statewide in reading and math at all school levels.
· Additionally, in 2009, Montgomery County’s low-income students achieved higher average proficiency rates than their counterparts statewide in elementary and middle school reading and in middle and high school math.
· In recent years, Montgomery County narrowed achievement gaps between its African American and Hispanic students and white students statewide in elementary and middle school reading and math. For example, between 2006 and 2009, Montgomery County narrowed the gap between its African American students and the state’s white students in middle school reading by 13 percentage points.
· Between 2006 and 2009, participation rates in Advanced Placement exams increased for Montgomery County’s African American and Hispanic students. For example, participation rates for Hispanic students increased by 6 percentage points during this period.
“Montgomery County’s distinction as a Broad Prize finalist demonstrates its unwavering focus on strong, sustainable student achievement,” said Foundation founder Eli Broad. “It is our hope that school districts around the country will learn from the practices Montgomery County and the other finalists are employing that are leading to impressive academic gains.”
The other finalists for the 2010 prize are Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, N.C.; Gwinnett County Public Schools outside Atlanta; Socorro Independent School District, El Paso, Texas; and Ysleta Independent School District, El Paso, Texas.
The Broad Prize Website