Turnaround Spotlight: Miami-Dade County Public Schools

Miami-Dade County Public Schools (Miami-Dade) is the third largest school district in the country and has made major strides to improve student achievement, winning the Broad Prize in 2012, an award given to large urban school districts that demonstrate the greatest overall performance and improvement in student achievement in the country. In 2011, Miami-Dade outperformed districts with demographically similar students in reading, math, and science at all school levels.

Miami-Dade’s turnaround effort is governed by a separate entity that provides oversight and intensive supports. Initially started as the Innovation Zone by then Superintendent Rudy Crew in 2004, the initial effort experienced some success with its 39 schools, but was not financially sustainable. A couple of years after the initial program ended, and in response to a threat by the state of Florida to take over nine underperforming high schools, a new turnaround office was created by Superintendent Alberto Carvahlo.

This new turnaround initiative is called the Education Transformation Office (ETO) and kicked off in 2010, initially providing support to 19 schools with historically poor performance and reporting directly to the superintendent. By 2011, the ETO added an additional 10 schools and has continued to take on low-performing schools. The ETO memoranda of understanding with the teachers union allows for performance pay, teacher transfers between schools, new approaches to scheduling, and more time for collaborative planning.

Administrators at underperforming schools meet to review information about their school’s performance five times per year with the superintendent and his cabinet. The principals and the executive team review and adjust resource allocation and strategies to address performance improvements.

Student achievement data informs school staffing in several key ways. Student performance makes up 50 percent of principal evaluations. To ensure that highly effective leaders are in the schools where students need them most, the district’s high-performing principals are asked to lead transformation schools while low-performing principals are removed from those sites.

Across the district, teachers deemed ineffective are moved out of transformation schools and teachers whose students have higher levels of achievement than expected are offered incentives to move to transformation schools. Additional Teach For America staff are brought in to increase the pool of teacher talent.

Though hiring and firing as more fluid at transformation schools, teachers also receive additional support. In low-performing elementary schools, central office leaders visit regularly and the schools receive extra instructional coaching and staff support.

Learn more about successful turnarounds in Innovate Public Schools’ report, “Struggling Schools, Promising Solutions.”

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