April 2, 2009 was a red letter day for Gwinnett County Public Schools and the Gwinnett community at large. The Broad Foundation announced that the school district was one of five finalists for The 2009 Broad Prize for Urban Education, the largest and among the most prestigious awards for education in the nation. It recognizes districts that have done the best job of raising student achievement overall and closing the achievement gap among groups of learners. In other words, The Broad Prize honors what is working in public education.
School districts do not apply for the Broad Prize. Rather, The Broad Foundation does an in-depth analysis of the performance data for 100 eligible urban districts with diverse populations. It then identifies the five that are doing the best job in raising student achievement. To be one of the five finalists is in itself a significant accomplishment for which everyone in the district and the county can be proud.
In early May, the Broad site visit team came to Gwinnett as part of the selection process. I feel confident they left with an even greater impression of the school district, thanks to what they observed and what they heard from the teachers, principals, district administrators, parents, business leaders, and community members they interviewed. All spoke to our focus on teaching and learning and our intent to raise achievement for all students.
In its preliminary report on the last day, the site team highlighted two main observations. One, the team saw evidence of our consistent focus on continuous improvement in all we do, academically and operationally. Secondly, they commended the district for its commitment to accountability coupled with empowerment. We were pleased that in noting these two areas, the team affirmed what we also believe undergirds the effectiveness of our schools and the district.