Broad Foundation to 'Pause' Prize for Urban Education

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation has announced that it will “pause” its Broad Prize for Urban Education, which for thirteen years has been awarded to large urban public school districts that demonstrate outstanding performance and improvement in student achievement while reducing gaps for poor and minority students.

Citing changes in public school systems like New Orleans' Recovery School District, Tennessee's Achievement School District, and other "portfolio" districts that include a mix of traditional and charter schools, the foundation said it will update the award "to better reflect and recognize the changing landscape of K-12 public education." Another factor in the decision is the underwhelming performance data from the seventy-five urban districts that are eligible for the prize. Every year since 2002, four or five finalists from that pool were chosen by a review board for consideration by the Broad Prize selection jury — until last year, when only two districts made the cut and shared the $1 million prize.

"One can also say looking at the TUDA [Trial Urban District Assessment] data there has been real improvement in urban education over the past ten or fifteen years," Frederick Hess, director of Education Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Broad Prize review board member, told Education Week. "It's just that the results aren't anywhere close to where we all might wish...and the question this poses is whether we are inevitably going to grow frustrated with the pace of improvement in urban school systems."

While the foundation considers how to update the program, which to date has funded scholarships totaling $16 million to twelve hundred low-income students, it will continue to award grants to districts to have researchers make diagnostic site visits. The foundation also will continue to award the $250,000 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools, which was created in 2012 to recognize high-performing charter management organizations that serve disadvantaged students.

"The rise of a new definition of public school systems, coupled with more rigorous standards and higher expectations for our public schools, convinced us that now is the right time to take a break and evaluate the Broad Prize to ensure it fulfills its original mission: to catalyze dramatic improvement in America’s public schools," said Broad Foundation president Bruce Reed. "We want to make sure any award recognizes the best achievement in K-12 public education today while incentivizing school systems to raise student achievement to the highest level."

"Broad Foundation to Pause $1 Million Broad Prize for Urban Education." Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation Press Release 02/02/2015. Denisa R. Superville. "Broad Foundation Puts Hold on Its Prize for Urban Education ." Education Week 02/02/2015.