Education

Miami-Dade students post historic gains in state testing scores

Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, at the podium, announces the third grade results on the Florida Standards Assessments English Language Arts exam at the School Board Administration Building on May 25.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, at the podium, announces the third grade results on the Florida Standards Assessments English Language Arts exam at the School Board Administration Building on May 25. Colleen Wright

Students in Miami-Dade public schools achieved unprecedented gains in every subject on state standardized tests, and in some subjects they pulled ahead of the statewide average.

According to results released by the Florida Department of Education Thursday evening, passing rates for students in Miami-Dade County increased 3 percentage points in English Language Arts exams and 2 percentage points in math exams to 57 percent and 62 percent, respectively, on the Florida Standardized Assessments. The statewide average grew only 1 percentage point in both those subjects, to 54 percent and 60 percent, respectively.

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho called the gains in all seven categories unprecedented and historic in a press conference late Friday morning at the School Board Administration Building in Miami.

Among his thanks to teachers, school staff, community members and parents, he lauded students, noting the district's 77,000 English-language learners, 79,000 immigrants and 75 percent of the district's enrollment that comes from low-income families.

"Notwithstanding those challenges, they have provided us the most compelling and unprecedented data release in the history of our school system," Carvalho said.

School grades, which can affect funding and have broader consequences for districts and individual schools, are expected to be released from the state this summer. Carvalho said he wouldn't make predictions, "but I'm pretty certain that we will continue with no F's in Miami-Dade on the basis of this stellar performance."

He added that the district will parse the data into ethnic groups and specific schools to pin down where gains were made.

Carvalho credited his staff's "laser-focus" attitude on performance, changing 85 percent of principals over the past 10 years, and "the highest performing teaching workforce anywhere in America."

District chief academic officer Maria Izquierdo attributed the success to tracking and monitoring the progress of students. She noted that the gains were made despite losing seven school days to Hurricane Irma, dealing with fears among students from national rhetoric on immigration and witnessing the school shooting in Parkland. She called this year "one of the most challenging school years in my days as chief academic officer."

"The fact that we have these outcomes today is a true testament to the teachers and educators," she said.

In Broward County, public school students' test scores went up 1 percentage point in both subject areas to 56 percent in English and 61 percent in math.

Broward County Public Schools released a statement Thursday evening praising students for their success despite dealing with trauma from the mass school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High right before testing season. Students at Stoneman Douglas, however, were exempt from taking the statewide assessments this year.

“Our students showed great resilience in taking the FSA tests just two months after the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School,” said Superintendent Robert Runcie. “While this has been a difficult school year and our entire community is continuing to recover, we remain committed to providing all students with a high-quality education.”

Broward parents will be able to access their child's scores on Saturday by visiting the district's Virtual Counselor portal. Dade students' scores will be loaded into the student portal under the report card tab by next week.

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