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Inland Empire school district repeats as finalist for academic prize

The Corona-Norco Unified School District was named as a finalist Thursday for the prestigious Broad Prize, which honors academic excellence by minority and low-income students in urban districts across the nation.

The Riverside County district is one of four finalists for the prize to be announced in September. The winning district will receive $550,000 in college scholarships for seniors in the class of 2013. The other three will each receive $150,000 in scholarships.

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The other finalists are the San Diego Unified School District, Houston Independent School District and Cumberland County Schools in North Carolina.

It is the second consecutive year that Corona-Norco has been named a finalist for the prize. Last year, the top honor went to Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

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The prize is awarded by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.

Thomas Pike, the district’s assistant superintendent of executive services, said that the environment at the district has long been one that cultivates achievement. A second nomination is further recognition of that success, he said.

“It’s a testament to the hard work of all our staff,” he said. “What has been created here is a really enduring culture that fosters students’ success.”

The Riverside County school system has garnered much attention and received honors for its steady gains in state and college entrance test scores, its above-average graduation rates and the academic ascent of its minority, low-income and special-education students.

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“Corona-Norco should be commended for its steadfast commitment to improving student achievement,” said billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad in a statement. “But even while these finalist districts are moving in the right direction, there is still a long road ahead before we can truly celebrate high levels of academic success. And as we look at other urban districts across the country, there is significantly more progress that needs to be made.”

Districts cannot apply for the award. Researchers determine improvement in several areas of student performance and compare student achievement among various districts with similar demographics.

The four finalists made greater strides in narrowing achievement gaps between Latino and African American students and their white peers. The districts also outperformed districts with similar demographics in their respective states.

The Garden Grove Unified School District won the prize in 2004 and the Long Beach Unified School District won in 2003.

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stephen.ceasar@latimes.com | Twitter: @stephenceasar

 


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