To be “complete” is defined as the “state of being finished.” The work of our schools however, of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, will never be finished.
We are eagerly looking ahead to 2019, but it is worth reflecting on 2018; both its triumphs and its trials.
Each year is born with new hope and promise for what could be. The year that has passed was no different. We all rejoiced at the news that M-DCPS students once again soared on the state’s performance tests and, for the second year in a row, there were no district-operated schools that received an “F” rating.
Together, we celebrated earning the district’s first “A” rating from the state, and, just recently, we were overjoyed with the announcement that Miami-Dade’s graduation rate climbed to its highest level ever with an overall graduation rate of 85.4 percent and an astonishing 89 percent for M-DCPS-managed schools.
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Our goal is outstanding student achievement for all, and so I am particularly proud that the graduation rate for students with disabilities and English-language learners improved by almost 10 percent; black students’ graduation rate increased by 7.5 percent; economically disadvantaged students’ graduation rate improved by almost 6 percent; and Hispanic students improved by more than 4 percent. Moving forward, we will be focused on raising these numbers even higher.
No two children are alike, so we continued to roll out new, innovative programs to ensure that every child can find the right educational fit. With more than 1,000 choice offerings to meet the needs of students and demands of parents, we are firm in our belief that education is the key that will open the door to the future for us all.
We have also surged forward with initiatives to educate the whole child: partnering with Facebook on digital citizenship; working with the Perez Art Museum Miami to guarantee year-round free access to the arts; and initiating a STEAM collaboration providing more than 26,000 seventh-graders live theater performances of “Kitty Hawk” at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.
The year was filled with joy, but there were also tears of sadness. The tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School affected so many in our community. The senseless loss of life struck us all deep in our core, igniting conversations across the nation about how and why such acts of violence continue to occur.
Violence that affects youth anywhere robs our children and teens of their childhoods. The trauma caused is not easily recovered from, and we as the adults must act. We must support those with mental wellness challenges and connect troubled children and families with the resources they need. We must invest in neighborhoods hardest hit by gun violence and end the culture of silence that protects those who do harm.
This year, we launched the Office of Mental Health Services to coordinate mental-health service and treatment for students; we continue our work with Together for Children, joining forces with neighborhood coalitions to address the root causes of youth violence; and we have strengthened the security of our schools, deploying a police officer at every school site. But we couldn’t do it alone.
Our School Board recognized the need for supplemental funding to improve compensation for teachers and to further enhance school security. The board voted to place the “Secure Our Future” referendum before the voters, who responded by passing it with a margin of 71.14 percent. We are grateful to the people of Miami-Dade for the faith and confidence they placed in public schools.
To reflect upon our accomplishments has value — to rest upon them does not. As we reflect upon the year that was, let us remember our triumphs and trials, for there are lessons in both. As we move into the new year, let us resolve to strive for excellence while practicing compassion. Let us remember that the strength of this school system lies in the remarkable partnerships that have been forged between our community, School Board, parents, teachers and students, in a collective endeavor to lift, educate and empower all children with the knowledge that their dreams can become reality.
Together, we have accomplished so much, but we are nowhere near completion. We are Miami-Dade County Public Schools, and we are just getting started.
Alberto M. Carvalho is the superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools.