Broad Prize: HISD a Finalist Again, Goes for a Second Win

Categories: Education

Is it time for another Houston Miracle for HISD?
Houston ISD got some great news today -- it's been nominated once again as a finalist for the Broad Prize for Urban Education thanks to an increased African-American graduation rate, more African Americans and Hispanics taking Advanced Placement tests and a greater percentage than any other urban district in Texas of having low-income and Hispanic students taking upper level academic courses.

As one of four finalists for the largest prize in education -- the winner is announced next October -- the district is guaranteed at least $150,000 for college scholarships, $550,000 if it wins outright, which will go to HISD seniors graduating in 2013.

HISD won the inaugural Broad Prize in 2002 and Superintendent Terry Grier acknowledged that in his comments today.

"HISD won the first Broad Prize in 2002 because this district was led by visionary people who truly believed that every child has the ability to excel in the classroom if we give our teachers and principals the tools they need," Grier said. "I'm proud to say that this children-first philosophy still guides every decision we make in HISD today and that it is producing results."

However, following HISD's 2002 win, an increasing number of questions were raised by publications and education researchers throughout the country about the validity of the so-called Houston Miracle (the "miracle" also helped propel former HISD Superintendent Rod Paige into the job of Secretary of Education under President George W. Bush).

HISD student scores on the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills were substantially higher than how those same students did on the national Stanford test. As even present-day HISD board members have noted with concern, the same situation continues with the disparity between the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, which replaced TAAS, and the Stanford.

A UT-Austin study found that in 2002, low-scoring students in HISD were excluded from taking the TAAS and that low-performing students were retained in the ninth grade, all in hopes of raising the district's overall marks.

Asked what had changed since 2002 and the way the district was operating, HISD spokesman Jason Spencer said, "I'm not going to get into comparing how we do things now and how the district did things back then. The district clearly made strong progress back in 2002 and basically laid a foundation for the current administration to build on."

"It really speaks to what our teachers, our principals and all of Team HISD has been able to accomplish," Grier said. "I could not be more proud as the school superintendent to work in a district where you are one of the four finalists for the Broad award."

The other finalists this year are: Corona-Norco Unified School District in Riverside County, California, Miami-Dade County Public Schools and The School District of Palm Beach County, Florida. The winner of the 2012 Broad Prize will be announced on Tuesday, October 23, in New York City at the Museum of Modern Art.

According to an HISD press release:

Seventy-five of the nation's largest urban school districts were automatically eligible and considered for The Broad Prize. School districts cannot apply or be nominated.

Houston is one of only two school districts in the country to return as a finalist for The Broad Prize after winning the award. Winning districts are ineligible for three years after their win. The Long Beach Unified School District in California was also a repeat finalist after winning the award.

All urban districts have much more work to do to help students of all backgrounds thrive," said Eli Broad, founder of The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. "However, Houston can be proud that on a robust set of measures of student progress, students of all backgrounds in HISD stand out among urban students nationally for their academic performance and improvement.

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