Des Moines Public Schools is the grand prize winner in the 25th annual Magna Awards, the top honor presented by the National School Boards Association. DMPS is being honored by the NSBA for the district’s work around educational equity, which includes a focus on improving the academic outcomes for boys and young men of color. DMPS has taken a number of initiatives in this effort, from hiring school-based equity coaches to district-wide efforts around school climate and culture.

Below is the press release from the NSBA. We will share more on this news later this month around the presentation of this award at the NSBA’s national convention in Philadelphia.

Alexandria, Va., (March 7, 2019) – Winchester Public Schools, Winchester, Virginia; Coatesville Area School District, Thorndale, Pennsylvania; and Des Moines Public Schools, Des Moines, Iowa, are the grand-prize winners in the 25th annual Magna Awards program sponsored by the National School Boards Association’s flagship magazine, American School Board Journal (ASBJ). This is the second year that the Magna Awards recognize school districts and their leaders for their efforts to bring educational equity to their students.

The Magna Awards, supported by Sodexo, a leader in delivering sustainable, integrated facilities management and food service operations, honor districts across the country for programs that break down barriers for underserved students. A panel of school board members, administrators, and other educators selected the winners from 200 submissions.

“It takes commitment to start an equity program and fortitude to sustain it,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, National School Boards Association Executive Director & CEO. “I congratulate the 2019 Magna Award winning districts for performing the hard and sometimes unpopular work to ensure all of their students are supported and provided with the tools and opportunities needed to succeed.”

This year’s three grand prize winners and 15 first place winners were selected from three enrollment categories: under 5,000 students, 5,000 to 20,000 students, and over 20,000 students. Each of the grand prize-winning school districts will give a special presentation at NSBA’s annual conference, to be held March 30 to April 1 in Philadelphia.

The grand prize winning programs:

  • Under 5,000 enrollment: A lack of minority representation in elementary school advanced math spurred the creation of AMPed UP! (Accelerated Math Progressions for Underrepresented Potential). Winchester Public Schools changed the way it identifies students for higher-level math classes. Fourth-grade students are identified through assessment scores and tapped to participate in STEM and enrichment activities during the summer and after school. These students go into advanced math classes and are supported throughout the school year. After two years of the program, African American enrollment in advanced math has risen.
  • 5,000 to 20,000 enrollment: Coatesville Area Public Schools’ Educator Equity Leadership Program uses partnerships with state and local organizations to provide training to teachers who become equity leaders in their schools. Students also participate through training and school groups. These trainings have caused teachers and administrators to focus on action as minority enrollment in AP and Dual Credit Courses began to climb and discussions on discipline and disproportionality are ongoing.
  • Over 20,000 enrollment: Des Moines Public Schools’ Educational Equity program with a pledge to improve the academic and social outcomes of boys and young men of color. The district has made systemic, structural changes, including the hiring of school-based Equity Coaches and a central office-based School Climate, Culture and Community Coordinator. In 2018, the achievement gap did not increase, and several schools are closing the gap.

All winners will be highlighted in the April issue of ASBJ.

2019 Magna Award First Place Winners

Under 5,000 students:

Colts Neck Township Schools, Colts Neck, New Jersey
Gates Chili Central School District, Rochester, New York
Lapwai School District, Boise, Idaho
Newport Independent School District, Newport, Kentucky
School District of Altoona, Altoona, Wisconsin

5,000 to 20,000 students:

Allentown School District, Allentown, Pennsylvania
Cambridge Public Schools, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Chatham County Schools, Pittsboro, North Carolina
Columbia School District 93, Columbia, Missouri
Roseville Area Schools, Roseville, Minnesota

Over 20,000 students:

Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Annapolis, Maryland
Bakersfield City School District, Bakersfield, California
Fort Worth Independent School District, Fort Worth, Texas
Pomona Unified School District, Pomona, California
St. Paul Public Schools, St. Paul, Minnesota

This release is available online at

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The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is the leading advocate for public education and supports equity and excellence in public education through school board leadership. NSBA believes education is a civil right necessary to the dignity and freedom of the American people, and all children should have equal access to an education that maximizes his or her individual potential. The association represents state school boards associations and their more than 90,000 local school board members throughout the U.S.

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