The prestigious Broad Prize, which honors academic excellence by minority and low-income students in urban districts across the nation, has once again eluded the Inland Empire's Corona-Norco Unified School District.
The Houston Independent School District was awarded the prize, which will grant that system $550,000 in college scholarships. The other three finalists, including Corona-Norco, will each receive $150,000.
The other finalists were the San Diego Unified School District and Cumberland County Schools in North Carolina.
“They are doing what every public school district is striving to do,” philanthropist and entrepreneur Eli Broad said at the ceremony Wednesday morning in Washington, referring to all the school systems.
It is the second time the largely Latino and low-income school district in the Inland Empire was a finalist for the prestigious national education competition.
The prize is awarded by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.
Corona-Norco schools Supt. Michael Lin said district officials believed they had a good chance of winning, but that just being a finalist is a huge honor.
“We won either way because being a finalist is nothing to be ashamed about – we're bringing home $150,000 in scholarships,” Lin said.
Districts cannot apply for the award. Researchers determine improvement in several areas of student performance and compare achievement among various districts with similar demographics.
The four finalists made greater strides in narrowing achievement gaps between Latino and African American students and their white peers. The districts also outperformed districts with similar demographics in their respective states.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praised Corona-Norco for shoring up achievement gaps.
Lin said the praise from Duncan pushes the district to continue its work.
“We’re very proud of the work we’re doing and coming form the secretary himself, it’s a high level of validation,” Lin said.
Latino students scored at advanced levels in reading, math and science and ranked in the top 30% of their peers across the state, he said. Duncan also lauded the district's college and career readiness program.
The Garden Grove Unified School District won the prize in 2004 and the Long Beach Unified School District won in 2003.