This morning, the Broad Foundation unveiled the big winner of the 2008 Broad Prize for Urban Education. Heading into the announcement in New York City, many believed that Miami-Dade would be the big winner. But when the name was announced and the check was awarded, Brownsville, Texas stood proud and tall.
For those not in the know, Brownsville is a “border community” on the southernmost tip of Texas. According to the Houston Chronicle, “Brownsville Independent School District serves nearly 50,000 students — 98 percent Hispanic and 43 percent learning English. Ninety-four percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch, a common measure of poverty. Surrounding Cameron County had the highest poverty rate for a county of its size in the country at 34.7 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.”
The full Chronicle piece can be found here — www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/tx/6057934.html.
So why Brownsville ISD? According to Broad, the answer is clear — student performance. Brownsville simply outperformed other districts across Texas when it came to reading and math achievement. They made dramatic steps in closing the achievement gap between Hispanic and white students. And they did so despite the demographics and with 2,000 new students coming in from Mexico each school year.
At the announcement ceremony, Eli Broad noted that “Brownsville is the best kept secret in America.” Not for long. By winning the Broad Prize, Brownsville has demonstrated that student achievement and school improvement is possible, period. No excuses. No data sleight of hand. No exclusions or “recalibrations” of the system.
For most, it would be easy to write off a community like Brownsville. Too many at-risk students. Too many language barriers to overcome. Too much poverty. Too many first-generations. Too little funding. Too little hope.
What many failed to see, and failed to respect, is that Brownsville is a true community. For nearly a decade now, Eduflack has heard from a native daughter of Brownsville about all of the good that was going on in this community. The investments made to boost student reading achievement. The commitment to early education and getting every Brownsville child ready for the start of kindergarten. The partnerships with businesses and institutions of higher education to make postsecondary education a possibility and a reality for virtually all, and not just a select few.
Brownsville is a testament to the good that can happen from collaboration, an unwavering sense of community, and a commitment to results. They refused to make excuses, and now they’ve got the hardware to show they are doing what works. Congrats to Brownsville ISD, the city, and its many proud citizens. Felicidades!