More than 600,000 students from Pre-K to 12th grade headed back to school last week in Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.
The work for the team that covers schools at the Miami Herald started long before, from preparing to explain and follow new statewide teaching and testing standards to backgrounding the top athletes at local high schools as the prep football season dawns.
For us, back to school is an across-the-newsroom experience. It impacts almost everyone.
Our core coverage team is led by Charlene Pacenti, a veteran Herald editor, and mom of two girls in public schools. Charlene also runs our MomsMiami.com website. She supervises two fulltime education reporters, David Smiley in Miami-Dade and Michael Vasquez in Broward, and also works with Kathleen McGrory, formerly a Miami-based education reporter who now covers education among other issues in our state capital bureau in Tallahassee.
In addition, we coordinate coverage with our news partners at WLRN-Miami Herald News and the State Impact Florida education coverage project, an off-shoot of NPR.
In Florida, the issues are huge this year, as we showed last Sunday in a story on Common Core State Standards, new benchmarks that aim to better prepare high school graduates for higher education and the workplace. Common Core is as complex as it is controversial, as David Smiley reported:
The new K-12 learning benchmarks aim to change the way students are taught and learn, and to produce high school graduates who are better prepared for college and careers. They have been adopted by almost every state in the nation. Florida schools during the last two years have slowly phased in the standards among their lowest grades.
The changes have stirred opposition from groups ranging from the Tea Party to teacher unions, though for differing reason, as McGrory reported on Monday from Tallahassee. Supporters inlcude President Barack Obama and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. On Thursday, Gov. Rick Scott called for a summit to be held next week in Clearwater to review the standards.
While that serious discussion roils across the state, another team of Herald reporters, photographers and videographers tackle a different schools challenge: coverage of high school football. Two Miami-Dade high schools, Central and Booker T. Washington, have been ranked No. 1 nationally in different pre-season polls. The first football jamborees happened this weekend, but the games that count start late next week on football fields from Homestead to North Broward.
Led by reporter Andre Fernandez, well provide the most comprehensive high school football coverage available, from game statistics to stories to video each weekend, with more than a dozen reporters and videographers deployed on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
Well soon be launching a high school sports app, and you can find more coverage, from player profiles to game video, on your desktop or smartphone as well.
Its going to be a busy school year.