August 23, 2014

Education in Florida

Miami-Dade school system in a race to change

Work is focused on student performance -- as that helps determine teacher pay.

Alberto Cavalho
Superintendent Alberto Carvalho oversees a student population that is 65% Hispanic, 25% African-American and 9% white. [Photo: Willfredo Lee/AP]
The quality of public school education in Miami-Dade County has been one of the business community's biggest concerns and a key obstacle for corporate recruiters. But the nation's fourth-largest school district has been making changes.

In October, the district became the first in the state to award teacher bonuses based on student performance, disbursing $15 million in federal Race to the Top dollars. Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho, who led the state's efforts to obtain the funding, created the bonus plan with the teachers union. Some 85% of teachers received awards of between $500 and $1,500 for test score improvements in their schools, area of teaching or their own students. The 10 top reading and math teachers in six regions received bonuses of between $4,000 and $25,000.

The district now offers more than 20 new magnet programs — more than 40% of students are enrolled in a magnet program, open enrollment school or other alternative. It also manages three charter schools, providing the building, custodians and cafeteria workers and running back-end operations. It's all about meeting parental demand, Carvalho says.

Overall, Florida has received $700 million in Race to the Top funding, half of which has been distributed to school districts. The other half will be used to track and facilitate implementation of the program. By 2014, state law requires all school districts to use student performance to help determine teacher pay.

In 2011, the district was one of four finalists for the national Broad Prize in Urban Education, which recognizes the top urban school districts in the country. The non-profit Broad Foundation, which awards the prize, noted that Miami-Dade "outperformed other Florida districts that serve students with similar family incomes in reading and math at all school levels."

Tags: Miami-Dade, Education

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