Massachusetts’s Mashpee Public Schools, Maine’s Portland Public Schools, and Michigan’s Detroit Public Schools are the Grand Prize winners in the 27th annual Magna Awards program sponsored by the National School Boards Association’s flagship magazine, American School Board Journal (ASBJ).

In addition to the three Grand Prize winners, 12 First Place winners, listed below, were selected across nine states (Arizona, California, Georgia, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wyoming). This is the fourth year that the Magna Awards recognize school districts and their leaders for their efforts to bring educational equity to their students.

The Magna Awards honor districts across the country for programs that break down barriers for underserved students. An independent panel of school board members, administrators, and other educators met in December and selected the winners from district submissions.

“2020 was a year like no other,” said NSBA Executive Director and CEO Anna Maria Chávez. “The 2021 Magna Award-winning districts represent the enormous efforts of school leaders during the pandemic to continue removing barriers to achievement for their underserved and vulnerable students.”

This year’s three Grand Prize winners and 12 first place winners were selected from three enrollment categories: under 5,000 students, 5,000 to 20,000 students, and over 20,000 students.

The grand prize-winning programs:

Under 5,000 enrollment: The school committee of Mashpee Public Schools created a formalized working partnership with the Wampanoag tribe to create an inclusive district that recognizes and celebrates the tribe’s rich heritage and culture and advances academic growth and social-emotional wellbeing of Wampanoag students through culture-based education principles and practices.

5,000 to 20,000 enrollment: Make It Happen! is Portland Public Schools’ college readiness program designed for high school multilingual and English learner students. Students work with site coordinators, volunteer academic coaches, and community partners to build competitive academic profiles for college admission and learn how to navigate and access financial aid.

Over 20,000 enrollment: The Detroit Public Schools’ Charles Drew Transition Center Horticulture Program is a year-round market garden program that provides educational, vocational, and life skills for students with special needs. It also makes fresh produce available for students, families, and the local community.

Representatives from the three Grand Prize-winning districts will be presenters at NSBA’s Annual Conference in April. All winners are highlighted in the April issue of ASBJ. Read about the Grand Prize-winning districts at programs. Read about the First Prize-winning districts, which are listed below, at

First place winners:

Under 5,000 enrollment

Special Education Blue Ribbon Action Team - Everyone is Counted, and Everyone Counts, Lower Lowell Joint School District, Whittier, California
Archway Partnership Workforce & Education Initiative, McDuffie County Schools, Thomson, Georgia
Priority One: Social Emotional Learning, Norton Public Schools, Norton, Massachusetts
Creating Access for All Through Community Partnerships, Teton County Schools, Jackson, Wyoming

5,000 to 20,000 enrollment

Public Montessori, Longview ISD, Longview, Texas
Ready for Kindergarten, McMinnville School District, McMinnville, Oregon
ASU Prep Digital Program, Pendergast Elementary District, Phoenix, Arizona
College Level Examination Program (CLEP), Reading School District, Reading, Pennsylvania

Over 20,000 enrollment

Equity-Focused Classroom Management, Cumberland County Schools, Fayetteville, North Carolina
Mentored Next Steps in Equity, Cumberland County Schools, Fayetteville, North Carolina
Parent and Family Engagement IMPACT Program, DeKalb County Schools, Stone Mountain, Georgia
Academic Language Programs, Ysleta ISD, El Paso, Texas

Around NSBA

Six students conduct a science experiment with potatoes and electrodes.

2024 Magna Awards: Silver Award Winners

The 2024 Magna Awards program recognizes 15 exemplary district programs in three enrollment categories as Silver Award winners.