I have always been a proud graduate of Miami public schools. I am equally proud that my three daughters will be able to make that same claim once my youngest graduates from Miami Palmetto in 2019.
But as a Miami real estate broker and agent, I also know too well the long-held perception that our schools are inferior, and the impact that negative perception has on property values. I have worked with countless buyers who insist that their homes be located close to top schools and are willing to pay top dollar for that proximity. Conversely, I have also represented frustrated sellers who are forced to accept modest offers for homes near low-graded schools.
For better or worse, independent research backs up this observation. In July 2014, the Journal of Regional Science study (“Property Left Behind: An Unintended Consequence of a No Child Left Behind ‘Failing’ School Designation”) reported that “‘failing’ designations significantly decrease home prices... this home price effect is largely due to strong perceptions of poor school quality or social stigma surrounding a ‘failing’ designation.”
For too long, we in the Miami real estate community have accepted negative impressions of local schools as reality, and simply did our best to minimize or work around them. But a closer look will reveal that Miami schools are unfairly and inaccurately graded, and they showing real signs of improvement, with plenty of reason for optimism.
As widely reported in the Miami Herald and other sources, Florida’s ‘letter grade’ system for evaluating schools — as well as the standardized testing used to produce these grades — are currently under tremendous scrutiny. Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Albert Carvalho has been a highly vocal critic of the state’s testing policy. Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s recent re-election platform called for a “thorough investigation of all standardized tests.” Even his opponent, former Gov. Charlie Crist, called the grading system “a mess.” It would seem that these highly impactful “failing’’ grades are being doled out by a system with little backing at the moment.
Furthermore, any notion that Miami’s school district is still the “same-old same-old” is absolutely misguided, dated, and in many cases, outright false. Under Carvalho (who was named the nation’s 2014 Superintendent of the Year):
▪ Miami-Dade’s increase in A schools was larger than the rest of Florida’s, and its increase in “F’’ schools was lower.
▪ Graduate rates have increased by about 15 percentage points in the past five years. (At close to 80 percent, it now exceeds the state average.)
▪ Miami-Dade placed among the highest-achieving school districts nationally in fourth and eighth grade reading and mathematics on the National Assessment for Education Progress.
▪ The district received the prestigious Broad Prize for Urban Education in 2012 for dramatic gains in achievements by black and Hispanic students and for raising academic standards across the board.
▪ Thanks to a voter-approved $1.2 billion bond, $22 million already has been spent to repair and remodel several area schools.
It is time for leaders in Miami’s real estate community to actively educate our brokers, agents and especially our clients about Miami’s rapidly improving schools and turn this (falsely) perceived weakness of our community into a strength.
Anthony Askowitz is the president and managing broker of RE/MAX Advance Realty. In addition to directing the activities of more than 150 real estate agents in the company’s Kendall and South Miami offices, he sells more than 150 homes a year. He recently earned the RE/MAX ‘Circle of Legends’ Awards, recognizing 10 years of service with the company and extraordinary production.
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School performance grades
For Miami-Dade County Public Schools and selected districts
No. of schools
2013 to 2014
2013 to 2014