Monroe County Public Schools

Colleen Wright / Miami Herald

It was 1999 when then-Gov. Jeb Bush achieved his biggest priority, the “A-plus plan,” which changed the way we have thought about schools in Florida ever since.

The law said schools should get letter grades so parents could quickly and easily understand how well they were doing. The grades are high stakes now, because if schools perform poorly for long enough the state can force districts to take drastic steps, such as closing them.

Twenty years after the law was passed, the school districts in South Florida have a lot to celebrate.

Kevin Walden / Monroe County School District

School had only been in session for a couple weeks last year when the Florida Keys went under a mandatory evacuation order — and then took the brunt of Hurricane Irma as a category 4 storm.

Monroe County School District

Across Florida, school is starting with new attention to school safety and security. In the Keys, that means more than increased police protection.

Jessica Bakeman / WLRN

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

Jessica Bakeman / WLRN News

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.

C.M. Guerrero / Miami Herald

It’s a growing problem in South Florida: teachers can’t afford to live in the communities where they work.