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Broad Foundation Announces New Prize for Urban Charters

The Los Angeles-based Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, which has sponsored a prize for the top urban public school districts for the past 10 years, is starting a similar award program for the nation's charter schools.

The Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools will provide $250,000 to the charter management organization that demonstrates the best academic outcomes for traditionally disadvantaged students, including closing achievement gaps.

Only certain charter management organizations will be eligible for the prize, because the foundation is focusing on systems of schools that have a long enough track record for judges to evaluate. For the first year, eligible charter management organizations must have:

  • five or more charter schools in operation as of the 2007-08 school year;
  • 1,500 students or more enrolled each year since 2007-08;
  • at least 40 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches since 2008-09;
  • 40 percent or more students from minority groups since 2008-09;
  • and 75 percent of its schools located in urban areas.

Right now, 20 charter management organizations meet that criteria, including the KIPP Foundation, YES Prep Public Schools in Texas, and Green Dot Public Schools, which operates schools in Los Angeles.

Unlike the Broad Prize for school districts, which evaluates systems on quantitative as well as qualitative measures, the new charter school prize winner will be selected based on student achievement data only.

Some of the same panelists who have worked with the urban school district prize will be lending their expertise to the new charter school award, including Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute (and an Edweek.org blogger) and Eric Hanushek, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.

Also on the panel is Christopher B. Swanson, the vice president of Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit corporation that publishes Education Week.

After a winner is selected, a Broad Prize team will visit the schools to develop a report on that organization's best practices. The winning CMO can use the prize money for "college-readiness efforts for low-income students, such as scholarships, speaker series, or campus visits," the foundation said in a press release.

Ursula Wright, the interim president and chief executive officer of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools in Washington, said Monday that no comparable prize for charter management organization currently exists. The prize "is a great way to endorse what is really working in the charter sector," she said.

The announcement of the first winner will be made in June at the alliance's conference in Minneapolis. The conference will also be honoring the anniversary of City Academy, the nation's first charter school, which was formed 20 years ago in St. Paul, Minn.

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