The Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education – 2014


Call for Nominations: Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education - 2014 Focus Is Narrowing Achievement Gaps

The Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education annually recognizes outstanding individuals who have dedicated themselves to improving education in this country and whose accomplishments are making a difference today. Honorees are chosen by a distinguished panel of judges made up of thoughtful and influential members of the education community. Each winner receives a gift of $50,000 and a bronze sculpture. The Prize was established in 1988 to honor Mr. McGraw’s lifelong commitment to education, and to mark the Corporation’s 100th anniversary.

The 2013 winners are Deborah Bial, Mike Feinberg, Dave Levin and Dr. Shirley A. Reed.

Read the news release about the Prize’s 2013 winners. Learn more about the winners.

Past honorees include:

  • Sal Khan, founder of the Khan Academy;
  • former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley;
  • the former U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige;
  • the Honorable James B. Hunt, Jr., former Governor of North Carolina;
  • James P. Comer, M.D., Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry, Yale University Child Study Center;
  • Barbara Bush, founder of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy; and
  • Wendy Kopp, president and founder of Teach For America

 McGraw Prize Nomination Process

 Below is a timeline outlining the McGraw Prize program milestones:

  • 2014 Feb 13 - Call for Nominations
    McGraw Hill Financial Research Foundation launches outreach campaign to solicit nominations from the educational community for the 2014 Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education.
  • 2014 Mar 21 - Deadline for Submissions
    All nominations must be completed and received by this date in order to be considered by the Board of Judges.
  • 2014 June - Award Recipient Notification
  • 2014 Sept 23 - Award Winners Announced

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Call for Nomination
Nominators are encouraged to nominate outstanding individuals who have made significant contributions to the field of education for the 2014 Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education. The application process consists of a one-time entry submission that will be reviewed and judged by the Board of Judges. Three winners will be selected.

All applications become the property of McGraw Hill Financial Research Foundation. The contents may be used for promotion, editorial, advertising, marketing, and other similar purposes without further notice or any compensation.

Note: The deadline for nomination submissions is March 21, 2014.

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Narrowing Achievement Gaps: What Works

No one disputes the importance of academic achievement as the primary goal of education – both for individual students and for broader society.

The cognitive and other skills that individuals acquire in school pave the way to further education and open the doors to science, literature, the arts and other knowledge that contributes to professional development and personal fulfillment. High-achieving students bring greater knowledge and skills to the labor market, and employers reward such knowledge and skills with high wages and opportunities for career advancement. For society as a whole, high levels of achievement promote economic growth and productivity and establish a foundation for stable communities.

In recent years American educators and policy makers have been paying increased attention to the existence of “achievement gaps.” The term “achievement gap” can be applied to a variety of measures, including standardized test scores, high school graduation rates, higher education enrollment and college graduation rates, and workforce and job readiness. The term is also relevant to so-called “soft” skills, such as work habits and persistence that are highly valued by employers.

Academic ability will normally be distributed among the population along the lines of the familiar bell-shaped curve. There will be some high performers, some low performers and lots of others clustered around the middle. While differences, or “gaps,” between the performance of individuals are to be expected, there is cause for concern when these gaps are not driven not only by standard distribution of academic ability but by other social, economic, cultural or other outside forces. Important questions arise when the collective achievement levels of any particular group of students – defined by characteristics as diverse as gender, race, ethnicity, family income, or rural versus urban environment – are consistently lower than the comparable  achievement levels of other groups of students or of the student population as a whole.

In recent years a substantial number of policy makers, educators, corporate leaders and other concerned citizens have sought to find ways to narrow these achievement gaps. Some view this task as a matter of basic fairness and equity – assuring that all students have the opportunity to compete on a level playing field – while others stress the broader social and economic consequences. A 2009 report by McKinsey & Co. cautioned that the persistence of achievement gaps in the U.S. is fostering a “permanent national recession.”

Some educational innovators have focused their efforts on the special learning challenges that low-income students bring with them when they pass through the schoolhouse door. These approaches include wrap-around health, social and educational services aimed at providing disadvantaged students with the social capital that most middle-class students take for granted. Others focus on male-female achievement gaps, which are a topic of growing interest not only in the U.S. but around the world. Whereas in the past concerns about gender equity focused on access to education for girls and women, now many districts say that they have a “boy problem” in that, once they gain access to education, girls tend to persist and excel academically at higher rates than boys. Still another important, but often neglected, challenge is performance gaps between students in rural and urban settings.

The 2014 McGraw Prize in Education will be awarded to three individuals who have found ways to successfully narrow a particular kind of achievement gap or gaps in a manner that lends itself to replication on a broad scale. As in the past, the Prize will be awarded across the educational spectrum from elementary and secondary education to higher education. A Prize will be awarded in each of the following three categories.

Global: Given that the debate over how to improve academic achievement is one that now transcends national borders, we will honor someone who has had a demonstrable impact on education policy and practice internationally. Persons outside of the US are eligible to apply.

Rising Star:  Candidates will be a relatively young practitioner, researcher or policy maker who, based on his or her accomplishments thus far, shows the promise of becoming a game changer and making even greater contributions in the future as it relates to narrowing an achievement gap.  This person imagines a future where education reform takes on new shapes and forms, and breaks boundaries.  He or she is a visionary and has rolled up his or her sleeves to craft new solutions.

Lifetime Achievement: We will honor an educational pioneer who has developed an innovative concept or approach to teaching and learning that has narrowed an achievement gap and that has also spurred others to create solutions. Candidates’ work will demonstrate measurable results and will have been put into practice and applied on a broad scale.

As always, judges will be looking for individuals and organizations that are able to document their accomplishments through quantitative and qualitative means. In each of the three categories, awards will be made to individuals who fulfill four Criteria:

  1. Impact on a key aspect of education
  2. Effectiveness
  3. Replication
  4. A compelling public voice

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Getting Started
To nominate an individual for 2014 Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education award, apply online. (For your reference, a PDF version of the form can be downloaded).

You will need to provide three letters of recommendation for your nominee. Please clearly designate the nominee’s name, title and contact information on each letter of recommendation.

All materials should be postmarked no later than Friday, March 21, 2014.

If you have questions, please email

Mail to:

Sheila Pantuliano
The Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education
McGraw Hill Financial Research Foundation
1221 Avenue of the Americas, 47th Floor
New York, NY 10020-1095

You may also send electronic collateral materials including links to articles, websites, videos and pdf documents, etc. in support of your nominee.

All materials should be received via email no later than Friday, March 21, 2014.

Email to: Sheila Pantuliano at

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Q: Are there a limited number of times that I can leave and come back to the application as I complete it?

A: No. You may close the application and reopen it as many times as needed. However, keep in mind that once you press the final submission button, you have officially entered the competition, and you will no longer have access to it.

Q: Who will be judging the applications?

A: Your applications will be judged by an independent, distinguished Board of Judges composed of experienced educational professionals and category content specialists.

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