Technology key for Broad Prize winner

The annual Broad Prize for Urban Education–the largest education prize in the United States, which honors the nation’s most improved urban school district–has been awarded to Texas’ Brownsville Independent School District for its outstanding achievement gains, and district officials say technology has played a large part in that success.

The district outperformed others in the state and increased student achievement in math and reading, while simultaneously closing achievement gaps–and the Broad (rhymes with “road”) Prize selection committee found that Brownsville stood out among other finalists during evaluations.

“We try to use as much technology as we can to impact education in the core areas,” said Salvador Cavazos, the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.  Brownsville funds much of its technology and tech-related programs with federal e-Rate dollars, he said.

In addition to making computer labs available to students, teachers in Brownsville also use computers in their classrooms.

“We [try] to create opportunities for our students to have access to computers throughout the academic day, which includes partnering with the city–in public libraries there is public access,” Cavazos said. “We live in a community that has … low socio-economic levels. Our public libraries are filled with kids and parents; many of our parents can’t afford to buy computers at home.”

The district’s Career and Technology Program features labs in every high school that connect students with universities across the nation. A statewide initiative has called for students to take all standardized tests online, and Cavazos said the district is in the middle of purchasing the hardware and software necessary to fulfill that initiative.

Cavazos also cited the district’s use of student data to drive instruction as a key reason for its success, saying: “Our teachers are very aware and deliberate. Success is not a guessing game with us.”

Brownsville’s focus on being “data-based” and “results-driven,” Cavazos said, has helped it consistently monitor student progress from elementary through high school.

“In the big picture, we’re gauging students’ progress through every year they’re with us until graduation,” he said.