A very important education reform announcement occurred last week, but you probably missed it because of the surprising and unfortunate paucity of coverage.
In hindsight, we may come to see this news as a turning point in our nation’s generations-long effort to ensure low-income inner-city kids have access to great schools.
Early Wednesday, finalists were named for the 2014 Broad Prize for Urban Education. For more than a decade, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation have given an annual award to the urban district with the best performance and most impressive academic gains.
Traditionally, the naming of finalists and the selection of a winner are celebratory events. They’ve been used as opportunities to shine a light on districts distinguishing themselves from the otherwise discouraging universe of urban school systems. The award has been widely viewed as a much-needed feel-good moment that, not unimportantly, brings with it major scholarship money for students.
For some time now, however, roiling waters have been visible just below the surface. Yes (and by definition), there will always be a “best” among any class, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is deserving of praise; that is, it might be good in relative terms but not absolute ones.
Said another way, is the best urban district good enough?
This year, to their enormous credit, the foundation and its selection committee openly addressed this issue. Their conclusion is that it’s time to reassess.
The press release, possibly the most introspective I’ve...