Miami-Dade Schools Win Prestigious Broad Prize

The Miami-Dade County school district has won the prestigious Broad Prize for Urban Education–in part due to the district’s success in improving the graduation rates and academic achievement of Latino students.

The prize recognizes school districts that have successfully closed achievement gaps for minority and poor students.Last year, about 66 percent of Miami-Dade’s total enrollment was Hispanic–representing 230,556 students. Some 187,815 students in the district reported speaking Spanish as their primary language.

The notable successes with Latino students include:

– The high school graduation rates for Latino and black students were higher than in other large urban districts. Between to 2006 and 2009, the graduation rate for black and Hispanic students increased by about 14 percent— to a rate of about 68 percent for Latino students. (The rates were calculated based on the averages of three recognized graduation rate calculation methods). Other urban districts increased their rates by smaller margins between those years.

– In 2011, the percentage of the district’s Latino students performing at the highest levels on state exams–levels 4 and 5—ranked in the top 30 percent statewide.

– Between 2008 and 2011, the SAT participation by Latino students increased 6 percent and the scores increased by 15 points.

The Miami Herald reported that Superintendent Alberto Carvalho attributed the district’s success to several changes in recent years, including the expansion of magnet programs, focusing on collecting performance data, placing focus on struggling schools and bringing in support such as Teach for America.

The Herald also noted that the Broad Prize review team cited the district’s data collection as impressive, in addition to its focus on improving outcomes at low-performing middle schools and preparing students at an early age for higher education.

The other districts that were finalists also have large Latino student populations: Palm Beach County schools in Florida, the Corona-Norco Unified School District in Southern California and the Houston Independent School District.

Miami won $550,000 in college scholarships for high school seniors graduating in 2013. The district has been nominated and named a finalist for the prize four times previously.

Related Links:

– “Miami-Dade school district wins Broad Prize, top national education award.” The Miami Herald.

– “2012 Broad Prize Awarded to Miami-Dade County Public Schools.” News Release.

– Broad Prize for Urban Education web site.

High School Valedictorian Fights Deportation

A Miami high school valedictorian ordered deported to her native Colombia is inspiring a groundswell of community support, protests and media coverage.

Daniela Pelaez, 18, who is enrolled in the international baccalaureate program at North Miami High School, dreams of becoming a heart surgeon. But that dream is now threatened: A judge recently ordered that she and her sister to be deported on March 28. Daniela was brought to the United States when she was four years old and overstayed a tourist visa.

The case once again puts the spotlight on the DREAM Act, and the many undocumented immigrant students who would benefit from a path to legal status if they pursue a postsecondary degree.

NBC Miami reported that last Friday, several thousand people–including students and teachers–joined a walkout protest at North Miami High School. Miami-Dade Superintendent of Schools Alberto Carvalho left the school holding Daniela’s hand. “Over my dead body will this child be deported,” he told the crowd, the station reported.

Daniela also has spoken out regarding her case, saying she doesn’t remember Colombia. “I’ve been asked the question before: ‘Do I feel American?’ or ‘Do I believe I am?'” Pelaez told NBC. “And I don’t think it’s a question. I’m American. I know the national anthem. I know the laws. I know what it is to be an American.”

Tampa Bay Online reports that local politicians have spoken out in support of her case. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida, wants Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to reverse the decision. Even Senator Marco Rubio, R-Florida, who has spoken out against the DREAM Act, supports Daniela’s cause

President Obama has repeatedly spoken in support of the DREAM Act and last summer announced a policy intended to lessen deportations of undocumented immigrants who are not criminals. The policy was intended to help minors brought to the U.S. as children. But The New York Times has reported that the policy has been applied unevenly, with some deportations halted and others proceeding forward. It’s unclear whether federal officials will reverse the decision in Daniela’s case.