• A greater percentage of Hispanic and black students reaching advanced academic levels, including Advanced Placement work;
• A large rise in graduation rates for black and Hispanic students, which climbed 14 percentage points from 2006 to 2009, according to the average of the three recognized methods;
• More students taking the SAT exam and higher scores, as well. Between 2008 and 2011, the participation and scores rose both across the board and for black and Hispanic students. For example, the number of Hispanic students who took the exam increased 6 percentage points, and the scores rose on average 15 points.
In a panel discussion with district leaders before the announcement, Carvalho highlighted several strategies that Dade public schools have undertaken in recent years, including expanding magnet programs; a laser-like focus on data at the district, region and school levels; and a focus on struggling schools, where principals were replaced and outside groups such as City Year and Teach for America provided support.
Even with Miami-Dade’s success, Carvalho said, there’s more to do: “We have 80 percent graduation rates. How can we rest with that? We have 20 percent to go.”
During the Broad Prize competition among the finalists, statisticians with MPR Associates analyzed data from the districts. A team of experts visited schools at each district and reviewed districtwide policies believed to contribute to student gains.
Shelley Billig, vice president of RMC Research led the team that visited each finalist district. In South Florida, they talked with 300 people, including students, parents, teachers and custodians, and visited a half-dozen schools.
Billig said Miami-Dade stood out for its “astute” way of analyzing data, in which not only adults, but students look at performance data and figure out how to improve. “There’s no time in between a problem is discovered and a solution is put in place,” she said.
Billig, who led the review team last year as well, said the differences they noticed in Miami-Dade this year included an analysis to improve lower-performing middle schools, and more attention to preparing kids even at early ages, for post-secondary education and opportunities.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report. For more education news, follow @lauraisensee on Twitter.