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Miami-Dade School Leaders: 'Resilient' Students Improved On State Exams Despite Challenging Year

Jessica Bakeman
Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and school board members promote the Miami-Dade school district's improving state test scores during a press conference at the school board building in downtown Miami on Friday, June 15.

More students locally and across Florida are passing state exams.

Statewide, students’ pass rates on the annual English and Math tests increased slightly from last year. But South Florida’s large school districts made bigger gains of 2 or 3 percent.

Miami-Dade County School District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and members of the school board highlighted the district’s across-the-board improvements during a press conference in downtown Miami on Friday.

"At no other point has the academic performance of our school system across all grade ranges … all improved simultaneously," Carvalho said.

Marie Izquierdo, chief academic officer for the school district, said students' performance was remarkable particularly because this was one of the most challenging school years she has seen.

"When this school year started, we all took a back seat to the weather, to Mother Nature," she said.

At the beginning of the year, she wasn’t too optimistic about how students would fare on state exams because the district was closed for seven days in September for Hurricane Irma. In fact, Carvalho and leaders of other districts that were hit hard by the storm asked the state to delay the exams, to no avail.

Several districts throughout Florida, including Miami-Dade and Broward, took in students from Texas, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who were affected by other hurricanes during last year’s devastating season.

Also, Izquierdo said there were times when students came to school afraid because of a federal crackdown on illegal immigration. And after the Feb. 14 shooting in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, many teachers and students were distracted from learning because of their fears about safety and security.

Izquierdo said the results show how "resilient" the students are.

In Miami-Dade, 57 percent of third through 10th graders scored a 3 or higher out of 5 on state English exams this year, up three percentage points from last year. And 62 percent of students in those grades passed the state math tests, up two points.

Statewide pass rates increased by 1 percentage point in both subjects: to 54 percent in English and 60 percent in math.

Broward and Palm Beach counties also saw their pass rates tick up in 2018. In Monroe County — the Florida Keys — students’ passing rates were the same as last year.

See the detailed results here.

Jessica Bakeman is Director of Enterprise Journalism at WLRN News, and she is the former senior news editor and education reporter. Her 2021 project "Class of COVID-19" won a national Edward R. Murrow Award.
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