Gwinnett schools win $1 million Broad Prize

1:01 p.m. Tuesday, October 19, 2010

By D. Aileen Dodd

Gwinnett County Public Schools has won the prestigious Broad Prize, after finishing as a runner-up last year in the competition for thenation’s best urban school district.

The victory comes with a million dollar pay day.

Every finalist nominated, as well as the winner receives scholarships money to help a group often overlooked for awards — students who struggled academically and brought up their grades in high school afford to continue their education in college.

Gwinnett Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks thanked teachers, administrators and students for their work in making the honor possible.

“We learned long ago that our greatest business was teaching and learning,” Wilbanks said. “The citizens, they support us all the way from our Chamber of Commerce to our county government. What we are about is educating children. I am just pleased, and more than that, I am thrilled to be recognized for what is being done in public education throughout this nation.”

Gwinnett was of five finalists; four finalists get $250,000 each for scholarships for college-bound students, while the the winning district gets $1 million. The other finalists are Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools of North Carolina; Montgomery County Public Schools of Maryland; Socorro Independent School District and Ysleta Independent School District, both of Texas.

Thirteen graduating seniors from Gwinnett received scholarships this year under the program, which recognizes students going to a two- or four-year college who have struggled and improved their grades in high school.

Broad officials choose district finalists based on student performance over a three-year period. Gwinnett was noted for achieving significant gains between 2005 and 2009, said Erica Lepping, a spokeswoman for the Broad Foundation. Among them:

  • The average SAT score of 1526 in 2009 topped state and national averages.
  • Between 2006 and 2009 SAT participation for African-Americans rose by 9 percentage points.
  • Twelve Gwinnett high schools were named Advanced Placement (AP) Honor Schools for performance on exams that prepare students for the rigors of college.

“We have always been on the forefront of instruction to increase student achievement,” said Lisa Johnson, principal of Lawrenceville Elementary, a school of 723. “We are closing the achievement gap despite the increase in the number of students on free and reduced price lunch.’

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