Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What's "urban"?

Talk about The Broad Prize for Urban Education always sparks questions about what they mean by "urban," and what kind of students can get scholarships from the Broad Foundation.

Some people say Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools shouldn't be labeled an urban district because it includes majority white, low-poverty suburban schools. And I did a double-take when Gwinnett County Schools landed last year's prize; I've always thought of Gwinnett as an Atlanta suburb.

After mulling some of those questions, the foundation redefined its eligibility standards this year, narrowing the field from 100 to 75. Spokeswoman Erica Lepping said even some of the past nominees have been taken aback by the "urban" label. The new requirements are based on size and demographics -- generally, at least 40 percent nonwhite and at least 40 percent who qualify for lunch subsidies. CMS is plenty big enough, 67 percent nonwhite and has a 53 percent poverty level.

Districts that make the finalist list, as CMS has three times, win significant scholarship money. I've heard rumblings that those scholarships are limited to low-income or minority students, or to those who attend "urban" schools. The student eligibility guidelines online don't say anything about the student's race or school demographics; it does specify financial need, as many scholarships do. The 13 who won scholarships Wednesday included white students, as well as four from the majority-white Myers Park High, which has relatively low poverty levels but includes a significant number of disadvantaged students.

CMS will find out Sept. 20 whether the third time's the charm. This time around, the big prize has shrunk a bit -- reduced, Lepping says, because philanthropist Eli Broad wants to make sure the endowment of around $40 million lasts longer. In 2010, Gwinett claimed $1 million in scholarships, while the finalists got $250,000 each. The foundation still touts the "$1 million Broad Prize," but now that's the total for the winner ($550,000) and three finalists ($150,000 each).


Anonymous said...


There seems to be some issues with being able to post...

Perhaps you should define "poverty" first, then let's see where the numbers fall.

And I don't mean the stated status quo numbers. I mean real, verifiable numbers.

IF, and I reiterate IF, 60% of FRL students don't qualify for the lunch subsidy as past sample audits have concluded, that means the "poverty level" in CMS would be about 23% and not 53%.

Even if the 60% is high, the possibility of such a discepancy warrants knowing who really qualifies and who doesn't since we base virtually everything on that number.

Wiley Coyote...

Ann Doss Helms said...

Wiley, don't know about posting problems. I just fished a couple of comments out of spam, but neither was yours and neither was on this item.

Anonymous said...

Charlotte's definition of "ur.ban"

uniquely crafting a county-wide public school system that's plummeted to a 31% white population with over a 51% economically disadvantaged student population in an effort to become a "world-class" city in this category while conveniently ignoring the wishes and will of the people with vast amounts of wealth who live in certain downtown areas and in certain suburbs.

never having to measure yourself against successful suburban public schools and private schools across the nation.

Bravo. CMS deserves national praise and recognition for this.