Orange County Public Schools was a proud co-winner of the 2014 Broad Prize for Urban Education. The annual $1 million award—the largest education prize in the country—honors urban school districts that demonstrate the greatest overall performance and improvement in student achievement while reducing achievement gaps among low-income students and students of color.

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Finalists were selected from among 75 of the country’s largest school districts by a review board of 13 prominent education researchers, policy leaders, practitioners and executives from leading universities, education associations, civil rights advocacy organizations, think-tanks and foundations that evaluated publicly available academic achievement data. This marks the first year since the prize’s founding in 2002 that the review board has opted to name only two finalists instead of either four or five as in previous years.

The other co-winner was Gwinnett County Public Schools in Georgia. Both districts received $500,000 in college scholarships for graduating high school seniors.

Image of students working in the classroom

Among the reasons that Orange County Public Schools was chosen as a 2014 Broad Prize winner:

  • A greater percentage of African-American students are reaching advanced academic levels in Orange County than in other districts in Florida. In 2013, the percentage of Orange County’s African-American students in elementary, middle and high school who performed at the highest achievement levels (Levels 4 and 5) in science ranked in the top 20 percent statewide compared to other African-American students. In addition, the percentage of Orange County’s African-American elementary and middle school students performing at the highest achievement levels in reading ranked in the top 20 percent of African-American middle school students in the rest of Florida. For example, 16 percent of Orange County’s African-American elementary school students reached advanced academic levels on the state science assessment compared with 12 percent of African-American elementary school students in the rest of the state.

  • In recent years, Orange County narrowed income and ethnic achievement gaps. The gap between OCPS' Hispanic students and the rest of the state’s white students narrowed in elementary, middle and high school reading and science and in elementary and high school math. The gap between OCPS' low-income students and the rest of the state’s non-low income students narrowed in elementary, middle and high school reading and math and in elementary and middle school science.

  • Orange County’s college-readiness has improved. Between 2010 and 2013, Orange County’s participation rates and average scores on Advanced Placement exams simultaneously increased for all students and notably for Hispanic juniors and seniors. For example, AP participation by Hispanic juniors and seniors increased 5 percentage points over this period, while passing rates increased 2 percentage points.

    More students working in the classroomTeams of educational researchers and practitioners led by the education consulting company RMC Research Corporation conducted four-day site visits in each finalist district using a research-based rubric for district quality to gather qualitative information, interview district administrators, conduct focus groups with teachers and principals and observe classrooms. The teams also interviewed parents, community leaders, school board members and union representatives. A selection jury of prominent individuals from business, industry, education and public service evaluated both the student achievement data and the qualitative site visit reports to determine a winner.

Founded by entrepreneur Eli Broad and his wife Edythe, both graduates of Detroit Public Schools, The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation is a philanthropy that seeks to ensure that every student in an urban public school has the opportunity to succeed. Bringing together top education experts and practitioners, the foundation funds system-wide programs and policies that strengthen public schools by creating environments that allow good teachers to do great work and enable students of all backgrounds to learn and thrive. Learn more about The Broad Foundation at

All photos courtesy of the Eli and Edith Broad Foundation. 

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Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. Secretary of Education were on hand to congratulate Superintendent Barbara Jenkins.

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