FIU and Miami-Dade schools strategize for student success

FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg and Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho convened their leadership teams June 16 to tackle some of the major issues facing public schools today – including test scores, graduation rates and college readiness.

They also gathered to celebrate the success they have had through an innovative partnership known as ACCESS (Achieving Community Collaboration in Education and Student Success).

“Our achievements as a school system are driven by the ACCESS partnership and the support of FIU,’’ said Carvalho, who used the opportunity to announce the district’s improved test scores in math and science, which outpaced the rest of the state. “We are living up to the promise of this collaboration.’’

The gathering at FIU represented the highest turnout of M-DCPS and FIU administrators for an ACCESS meeting since the partnership began in 2010. The formal strategy session was followed by a more informal celebration with hamburgers and hot dogs at the Ronald W. Reagan Presidential House at FIU’s Modesto A. Maidique campus.

“It’s important that we come together as a group and rejoice over the incredible success we have had,’’ Rosenberg said. “I always tell the story of ACCESS, and I thank you all for your contributions and for being here with us today.’’

Irma Becerra-Fernandez, FIU’s vice president for engagement, said the ACCESS partnership has gotten national attention recently as a model for school transformation, with high-profile visits to FIU and M-DCPS schools from two White House advisors on education, as well as a keynote address from the Rev. Al Sharpton at two schools’ career days.

“I can report that Washington’s eyes and ears are paying attention to our model, and national advocates are heralding our success,’’ Becerra-Fernandez said.

Beyond the celebration and good will, the ACCESS leadership team also reported hard numbers that demonstrate the difference the partnership is making in areas like dual enrollment, teacher preparation and best practices for preventing disruptive behavior.

For example, since 2009, the number of Miami-Dade County students enrolled in dual enrollment courses – which provide students with college credit – has increased from 425 to nearly 5,000 in Fall 2013. In Spring 2014, dual enrollment classes saved Miami-Dade students an estimated $3.8 million in tuition.

To better prepare Miami-Dade County teachers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), FIU has created a STEM certificate program that has enrolled more than 30 teachers so far. In addition, the university received $1.5 million from the National Math and Science Institute to replicate the UTeach model with the goal of producing more than 50 STEM teachers each year.

The partnership also has made a difference in treatment for children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

FIU’s Center for Children and Families provided intensive treatment to more than 70 middle and high school students with ADHD during its Summer Prep Program.  Another 45 pre-K children at risk for ADHD received treatment as well. Weekly training sessions were offered to the children’s parents to help them cope with their child’s behavior and assist in their child’s progress.

Also highlighted at the meeting was the ongoing success of FIU’s Education Effect partnership, which has resulted in higher student GPAs and graduation rates at Miami Northwestern Senior High School in Liberty City.

FIU and M-DCPS recently announced the expansion of The Education Effect to Booker T. Washington High School in Overtown. A centerpiece of that initiative will be restoration of the school’s 25-year-old planetarium, which Carvalho said will be completed this fall.

At the celebration following the meeting, Rosenberg congratulated Carvalho on being named the national and state “superintendent of the year” and presented him with a plaque of an advertisement that appeared in The Miami Herald after the announcement.

“Not only was he selected as national and state superintendent of the year, but we can now address him as Dr. Carvalho,’’ Rosenberg said. “As most of you know, we awarded the superintendent an honorary degree from FIU in recognition of his vision, leadership, determination and work in public school transformation.”

To learn more about FIU’s ACCESS partnership with Miami-Dade Schools, visit or call 305-348-7752.

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