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Miami-Dade high schools make the grade

caines | 1/11/2012, 7:30 a.m.

Northwestern receives first B Southridge gets its A

The performance grades of schools often reflects more than a reputation it reflects the quality of education. Recently, the Florida Department of Education (FDE) released its grades for high schools throughout the state. Miami-Dade County Public Schools did significantly well with no school receiving an F. While many schools improved, some predominantly-Black schools made remarkable advances since school grades were first given in 1999. Wallace Aristide, 47, the first-year principal of Miami Northwestern led the charge in raising his schools grade from a D status in 2010 to a B in 2011 the first in the schools history. We got our students excited and interested in going to different colleges and universities, he said. I think that was extremely helpful in getting us to the level that we are on right now. I also think that preparation for the ACT and SAT really helped us as well. Miami Southridge has something of which it can truly be proud, improving its grade from a D last year to an A something that they have never been able to do and something that few, if any, Black high schools can claim. [gallery orderby="title"] But there are other feats that deserve being acknowledged. Miami Jackson earned a B grade this year a first for the Generals. And Miami Edison, after five years of consecutive failing grades, held on to its C grade standing for the second year in a row. We received tremendous support from the district, said Pablo Ortiz, 43, principal of Edison. The students are working hard to graduate college-ready and be successful in college or in the workforce. Miami Carol City, Miami Norland and North Miami Senior High Schools all earned a C for the first time in over six years. In 2010, those schools were at D status. We assessed areas of need and selected programs/strategies that needed to be implemented, said Luis Solano, 42, Norlands principal. We also identified and worked with community partners in order to instrument change. School grades are earned based on two major elements: 50 percent from the performance of each schools students on the FCAT and 50 percent from factors that include the schools graduation rate, the performance and participation of students in Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), Dual Enrollment, Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE), industry certification courses, the post-secondary readiness of high-achieving students as measured by the SAT, ACT or College Placement Test (CPT) and the high school graduation rate of at-risk students. I have been a teacher all of my life and I know students can learn if we put the right team in there, said Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, 69, Miami-Dade School Board member, District 2. According to results released from the FDE 78 percent of the states high schools earned either an A or B grade an increase from 71 percent last year.

School penalties impact overall grades

While many schools moved up a letter grade for their performance in 2011, some were penalized because all students didnt rise to the occasion. In 2010, Booker T. Washington Sr. High (BTW) received an F this year they received a D. But theres more to the formula that is used to evaluate a school. BTW actually earned a C but because the lowest 25 percent of its students didnt improve in their performance, the school was penalized one full letter grade. I think this is very unfair, said William Aristide, 45, BTWs principal [and the younger brother of Northwesterns man in charge]. It is very painful because these kids have worked so hard and the teachers have worked hard as well. When you have a school with a very high percentage of English language learners it is that much more difficult, but we were still able to make things happen. Miami Central Sr. High School was also penalized in 2011. The school fell from C status in 2010 to a D. Receiving the D is disheartening but we will not question why nor how this happened we will simply make the necessary adjustments so that we are not faced with this again, said Rennina Turner, 43, Centrals principal.

Plans for next year

While improvement is evident in the current grades of the majority of the Countys schools, several administrators say they already have their eyes set on doing even better next year. We think that there is room for improvement, Wallace Aristide said. We are focusing on trying to do a better job on reading when it comes to the FCAT. We are also looking at helping our kids to do extremely well in writing. We hope over 80 percent of our students will have a level 4 or higher score in writing. That would be a major impact for us. Centrals principal also has an agenda for success in the future. Specifically, we are identifying the lowest 30 percent and providing them with targeted instruction based on current data, Turner said. Additionally, we have implemented a mentoring program, Rising Rockets, where teachers have agreed to adopt students who make up the bottom 35 percent and mentor them, providing additional instruction. School districts have an opportunity to appeal the grade through February 3rd. By Randy Gricergrice@miamitimesonline.com