Garden Grove Schools Honored


They didn’t win the grand prize, but runner-up status still brought Garden Grove Unified School District $125,000 in college scholarships and recognition as a model of academic achievement during ceremonies Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

The central Orange County district was among more than 100 urban school districts nationwide that were scrutinized this year as part of a new education award sponsored by the Broad Foundation. The Los Angeles-based organization promotes quality education in disadvantaged urban schools.

Five finalists, including Garden Grove Unified School District, shared $1 million in scholarship money Wednesday. The funds will be distributed next spring to current high school seniors in the winning districts.

Houston Independent School District won first place and $500,000 for, among other things, having the smallest achievement gaps among ethnic and socio-economic groups. Long Beach Unified School District, Atlanta Public Schools and Boston Public Schools, the three other finalists, each will receive $125,000.


“This is for everyone” in the district, Garden Grove school board president Bob Harden said by telephone Wednesday from Capitol Hill, where the awards were presented. “From those who get the rooms ready before classes, to the teachers and administrators.... This validates the work they do.”

Harden flew to Washington earlier this week with fellow trustee Terry Cantrell, district Supt. Laura Schwalm and Dave Brown, president of the local teachers union.

When they return, Harden said, “we’ll have lots of pats on the back to distribute and then we’ll tell everyone to get to work and do even better next year.”

The Broad Prize for Urban Education, unveiled in March, has no formal application process. In its inaugural year, 108 large urban school districts of 35,000 or more students with high poverty and multiethnic populations were eligible.


A review board looked at several factors, including test scores, attendance, dropout rates and achievement gaps among ethnic and socio-economic groups.

Nearly 60% of Garden Grove Unified’s 50,000 students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. About half still are learning English.

The Broad award’s review board credited Garden Grove’s system of clearly defined academic goals and close monitoring of students’ academic progress for its success.

Officials must still determine the selection process for students who will receive college scholarships in the winning districts.


The money, $10,000 for those who enroll in four-year colleges and $2,000 for those who choose two-year programs, will be awarded in the spring.