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Foundation recognizes Cumberland County Schools

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The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation has awarded the Cumberland County Schools system $150,000 for student scholarships. The award is a result of the district becoming one of four finalists for the Broad Foundation's annual prize of $550,000 in scholarships.

The Broad Prize recognizes certain large urban school districts that show significant improvements over the most-recent four-year period.

School districts do not apply for the award. Instead, qualifying districts are discovered each year when researchers for the Broad Foundation analyzes the country's 75 largest urban school districts that serve high percentages of low-income and minority students.

The four districts selected as finalists are the ones that make the most gains in overall student achievement and in reducing achievement gaps for low-income, Hispanic and African-American subgroups. This year's other finalists are Corona-Norco Unified School District (CA), Houston Independent School District (TX) and San Diego Unified School District (CA).

Shelley Billig who works for a third-party research group used by the Broad Foundation said Cumberland County schools narrowed the achievement gap between the best performing students and low-income and minority students. She said there has been a significant growth in African-American students reaching an advanced level. She also pointed out that Cumberland County graduation rates improved twice as fast other districts.

"One of the things about Cumberland County is you're not just looking at reaching a proficiency level, but you're looking at student growth for every single child," Billig said. "So when you've got that kind of individualized approach where every child counts, it makes for a really good school."

She said the decrease in the achievement gap was significant. Cumberland County Schools now has the smallest gap of any urban school district in North Carolina.

"For the Broad Prize you have to have students who are achieving at the very highest level, and you've done that with your African American students who are achieving at advanced levels at a greater rate than any other county in North Carolina," Billig said Wednesday.

Billig and other researchers are touring Cumberland County schools this week to gather more information that will be added to the data already gathered. She will make similar trips to the other finalist school districts.

The overall Broad Prize winner will be announced September 25 at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The scholarship money for the finalists and the overall winner will go to seniors who demonstrate both grade improvement over the course of their high school career and financial need.

Brandon Herring

Brandon is a North Carolina native and UNC alum who lives in Fayetteville, and covers Cumberland County and the Sandhills. Returning to North Carolina to work as a journalist is a dream come true for Brandon. More>>

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