In a few days, a charter school organization will receive the $250,000 Prize for excellence from the Eli and Edyth Broad Foundation. Three finalists– IDEA Public Schools, Success Academy Charter Schools and YES Prep Public Schools–were announced weeks ago. The winner will be made public at the annual meeting of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, in Nashville on June 27. The four previous winners of the prize are KIPP, Noble Network, Uncommon Schools and Yes Prep.
But there’s another, more important piece of the story. Without much publicity and for the second year in a row, the Broad Foundation is not awarding the $1,000,000 Broad Prize for Excellence in Urban Education, which has been given to a public school district. It turns out that the NAEP scores of most of the Broad Prize winners have been flat for years. These districts have been living and dying by test scores, and it’s not working, or not working well enough for the Foundation’s judges.
Ben Weider of the blog 538 deconstructed the issue in a well-reasoned piece, “The Most Important Award in Public Education Struggles to Find Winners.” Not long after, the Foundation decided to ‘pause’ the $1 million award, citing ‘sluggish’ changes in urban schools. No prize was awarded in 2015, nor will one be this year, the Foundation’s Director of Communications told me. As Howard Blume of the Los Angeles Times has reported, billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad has shifted his focus to charter schools.