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South Florida School District Leaders Celebrate A, B Ratings From State

Jessica Bakeman
Miami-Dade schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho and school board members celebrate the district's first-time "A" school grade during a press conference at the school board building in downtown Miami on Thursday.

Three South Florida school districts earned “A” grades for the academic year that just ended.

The Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Monroe county school districts all saw their grades increase from “B” to “A” for 2017-18. Broward County Public Schools kept its “B” from previous years. The Florida Department of Education released the newest ratings on Wednesday.

DATABASE: Check out the grades for all Florida schools

Miami-Dade is also lauding a second year with no “Fs” among its traditional public schools. One privately run charter school received a failing grade. Fourteen schools, including traditional and charters, got “incomplete” grades, which means not enough students took state tests in order to finish the rating process.

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho used the occasion to build community support for a proposed property tax increase to fund teacher raises. The school board voted on Wednesday to place a referendum on the ballot in November for the tax hike.

“Considering lackluster investment … from the state, recognizing the cost of living in our community … and recognizing the performance our teachers deliver every single day,” he said, “it is appropriate to put the question before the people of our community: Do they not deserve a salary increase? Do they not deserve fair compensation?”

A crowd that had gathered in the auditorium at district headquarters for the press conference applauded.

Several principals whose schools’ improvements contributed to the overall district grade increase spoke at the press conference. Vanady Daniels leads Lake Stevens Elementary in Opa-Locka, which went from a “C” to an “A."

She said she has tried to create a culture where teachers believe in students and students believe in themselves.

“We are so overwhelmed to get our ‘A’ back after 12 years,” she said. “It is a tremendous feat for us.”

DATABASE: Check out the grades for all Florida schools

Broward County schools was rated “B” for the fifth year in a row and missed an “A” by two percentage points, the district said in a news release.

Florida lawmakers voted earlier this year to allow Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to keep its long-time “A” grade this year while also relieving students from many state testing requirements.

“We know this has been a difficult school year for our entire community and remain committed to meeting the needs of students and families and providing a high-quality education,” Superintendent Robert Runcie said in a statement.

The leaders of the Palm Beach and Monroe County school districts released statements touting their “A” grades.

Monroe — the Florida Keys — had no “D” or “F” schools.

Monroe school superintendent Mark Porter said students performed well on state assessments “despite the difficult year it has been.” The district was hit hard by Hurricane Irma, and schools there were closed for as many as 18 days.

“This is truly a remarkable achievement we all are proud of,” Porter said in a statement.

Florida education policymakers set a new passing bar for state exams and school grades in 2016, after implementing new tests aligned to the state's version of the Common Core standards. At the time, some leaders argued the new standards were too low. Schools' and districts' grades have improved consistently since the changes.

See all district and school grades 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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