The “Big Apple” can take great pride in the metaphoric red apple now sitting atop its desk … The New York City Department of Education was recently honored by the Broad Education Foundation with a $500,000 award which will go directly to high school students for college scholarships. The $1 million Broad Prize is awarded to school districts that “show the greatest overall performance and improvement in student achievement while reducing the gaps among poor and minority students.”

Eli Broad, founder of the Broad Foundation, handed out the highest of compliments by calling New York City “a model of successful urban school district reform.”

The Foundation recognized New York City Schools for outperforming other districts in the state serving students with similar income levels areas of math and reading at all grade levels. It also cited greater performance and improvement by each of the City’s three sub-groups: low income, African-American and Hispanic students, as well as a narrowing of the achievement gaps between African-American and Hispanic students and the state average for white students.

After gaining control of the city’s school system by the State Legislature in 2002, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYC Schools Chancellor John Klein launched the Children First initiative , a series of reforms designed around three guiding principles: Leadership, Empowerment, and Accountability.

While the New York City Department of Education will receive half of this year’s total prize money, the remaining $500,000 will be split equally between the other four finalists, which include: