The march to privatize public schools comes to Liberty City.
From the Miami Herald:
Two iconic Miami-Dade schools — one of which was held up by President Barack Obama as a national model for education reform — may have to close their doors or be converted into charter schools because they have not shown the required improvements by a controversial state rule.
For three years, Miami Central and Miami Edison have been on the state Department of Education’s list of struggling public schools, despite raising their grades from F’s to C’s. That’s not enough progress, the state says, and a more radical change could be called for.
On Tuesday, Miami-Dade schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho vowed to keep the schools open.
“There is no way on God’s green earth that I will recommend the closure of these schools,” Carvalho said. “They are the beacons of hope in these communities and I will honor that hope by fighting for these schools.”
Community leaders echoed the sentiment.
“This is an injustice,” said U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, a former Miami-Dade School Board member. “These schools are pillars in the community. You can’t just close them or make them charter schools.”
While school grades for high schools have not yet been released, the state says both Central and Edison are within the “F range” based on their performances on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests.
Carvalho countered that FCAT scores don’t tell the whole picture because high school grades now factor in graduation rates, as well as the number of students involved in vocational and college-prep programs.
“We are fairly certain that these schools will not be F schools,” Carvalho said.
Carvalho has filed an appeal with the state Board of Education, outlining both schools’ successes and asking for more time to make progress.
“To deny this appeal is to ignore the compelling progress that’s been made at these schools,” Carvalho said.
The board will make a decision Tuesday during a meeting in Tampa.
A third school, Holmes Elementary in Liberty City, also stayed on the state list for three years.
But Holmes has received three Cs since 2008, and interim Education Commissioner John Winn has recommended it stay open and under Miami-Dade School Board control.
Central and Edison, two long-struggling inner-city high schools, have undergone extensive changes since they were first added to the list of failing schools that faced closure in 2008.
At the time, Central had the worst academic record of all senior high schools in Florida — five straight F’s.
Carvalho put a new leadership team in charge, including the state’s principal of the year Doug Rodriguez.
Rodriguez brought in top teachers, instituted a strict discipline policy and cleaned up the sprawling West Little River campus. Community members joined in the effort, volunteering their time and mentoring students.
Within two years, Central’s state-issued grade rose from F to C, prompting a visit from Obama and former Gov. Jeb Bush in March.
“It’s inspiring to think about where you were a few years ago and where you are today,” Obama told the student body. “You came together to turn this school around, and I think the rest of us can learn from that.”
Read more here.
I was at that Central High pep rally, and experienced first hand the elation of those kids at meeting the president. Kids were literally skipping out of that auditorium afterwards, beaming and boasting that the president had talked to them individually. I asked one kid if he was excited to meet the president, and a sheepish, but wide grin spread across his face as he said “yes ma’am.” It was incredible. And people who live in Miami understand what a big change has taken place at all three schools in question: Central, Miami Edison, which serves a largely Haitian-American population, many with language skills challenges, and Holmes Elementary, which inexplicably saw its principal replaced last year despite his doing a great job with that school.
Unfortunately for those kids, Miami’s new commissioner of education, Gerard Robinson, who the governor poached from Virginia, is an ideologue and charter school zealot who has zero experience actually teaching or administering a school. He’s pretty much an apparatchik of the state’s extremist governor, Rick Scott.
The communities are going to have to fight for these schools, and I give Alberto Carvalho, who can come across as a rather chilly character, a lot of credit for getting into the trenches with them.
Meanwhile, one can only imagine which private charter companies are eyeing these schools for takeover.
UPDATE: Maybe I praised Carvalho too soon. A source tells TRR the superintendent knew this was coming, and was warned about it more than six months ago. He also obviously knew about the schools’ running scores. So perhaps what he is doing is a bit of theater, given that if the takeover goes through, funds for these schools will now flow to the state rather than the district. This one’s definitely developing…