updated 9/21/2006 8:42:54 AM ET 2006-09-21T12:42:54

WASHINGTON — The Boston public school system won the nation's largest prize in public education Tuesday, earning $500,000 in college scholarships for making steady gains in the classroom.

The Boston district won the biggest share of the $1 million Broad Prize for Public Education. The award annually honors urban districts that make notable academic progress, particularly by reducing the test-score "achievement gap" among poor and minority students.

"This is a testament to all in the school district: teachers for the hard work that they've done, principals for their leadership and more importantly for the parents who have chosen to have us educate their children and stayed with us," interim superintendent Michael Contompasis said.

But Contompasis said more must be done, such as further reducing the achievement gap and reaching out to disenfranchised students.

"This is a good day to celebrate, but it's also a day to reflect that we've got a lot more to do," he said.

This year, 100 districts were eligible. The other four finalists were Bridgeport Public Schools in Connecticut, Jersey City School District in New Jersey, Miami Dade County Public Schools and the New York City Department of Education. They will all receive $125,000.

Foundation endows awards
Boston has been a finalist for five straight years. It won this year's top honor by posting impressive gains among poor and minority kids when compared with other Massachusetts districts.

"Boston has consistently shown that stable leadership in the school district and the city, as well as data-driven teaching, leads to strong student performance," said Eli Broad, the philanthropist who created the Broad Foundation in 1999, with his wife, Edythe.

"While it is discouraging that there is not more success in this country's public school systems," he said, "other large urban districts can learn from Boston's sustained progress."

Boston's district has about 58,000 students, and almost 75 percent of them are eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches, an indication of a district's poverty level.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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