‘The best possible ending to 2018.’ Miami-Dade Schools celebrates graduation rates

Many Miami-Dade County High School seniors are graduating at the tops of their classes, soon to attend prestigious schools across the United States.
Many Miami-Dade County High School seniors are graduating at the tops of their classes, soon to attend prestigious schools across the United States. AP file

Calling it the best possible ending to 2018, Miami-Dade school district officials celebrated the newly released county graduation rate, which grew at a larger rate than the state and other large districts.

Miami-Dade’s graduation rate, inclusive of charter schools, improved 4.7 percentage points to 85.4 percent. It fell short of the state’s graduation rate of 86.1 percent, but the state’s year-over-year growth was just 3.8 percentage points. Broward County’s graduation rate grew 3.3 percentage points to 84.3 percent.

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho made the announcement during Wednesday’s School Board meeting, at first apologizing for being preoccupied. He said he had been texting with Education Commissioner Pam Stewart, who was congratulating the county for boosting the state’s performance.

“It is powerful, it is impressive and I think we owe a debt of gratitude to our entire team who has improved our results,” he said.

Carvalho also made a point to parse out the graduation rate of district-managed schools versus charter schools. He said the graduation rate for just district-managed schools improved from 84 percent to 89.7 percent.

He highlighted another data point: The graduation rate for all black students in public schools, including charter schools, in Miami-Dade was 80.9 percent, down from 81.1 percent last year. For black students in charter schools, that figure for 2017-18 was just 33.8 percent. The rate for black students in traditional public schools this year was 88.5 percent.

Board members celebrated the announcement at the meeting.

“This is from 47 cents,” said board member Larry Feldman, referring to the paltry increase for funding without strings from the Florida Legislature. “Can you imagine if we got $1.47?”

Board member Mari Tere Rojas said teachers will finally be compensated for their work, reflected in the graduation rates, following the passage of a property tax referendum netting about $211 million for teacher pay.

“Again we see once more what these teachers at Miami-Dade public schools do each and every day without the compensation they deserved,” she said. “Thank a teacher, because when those doors close, they are the ones who make the greatest impact of all so we can celebrate the results that we are celebrating here with us today.”

Statewide, the black graduation rate grew 6.1 percentage points to cross the 80 percent threshold, coming in at 80.9 percent. The graduation rate for males also grew 4.3 percentage points to 82.9 percent.

The federal measure of the high school graduation rate is the percentage of students who graduate within four years of starting ninth grade.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated the incorrect graduation rate for district-run Miami-Dade schools.

Colleen Wright returned to the Miami Herald in May 2018 to cover all things education, including Miami-Dade and Broward schools, colleges and universities. The Herald was her first internship before she left her hometown of South Miami to earn a journalism degree from the University of Florida. She previously covered education for the Tampa Bay Times.