miami_central_high_sutdents_web.jpgMIAMI — Two historic high schools and one elementary school in the Miami area that have been plagued in recent years with failing grades will have a champion when a state panel meets on Tuesday to consider closing them.

One of the schools, Miami Central High, was visited by President Barack Obama in March  and praised the school’s effort at turning itself around.

“You’re doing what I challenged states to do shortly after I took office – and that’s turning America’s lowest-performing schools around,” Obama said to a gathering at Miami Central as he launched Education Month.

Miami-Dade County Superintendent of Schools Alberto M. Carvalho “will present a compelling case” regarding the future of Miami Edison and Miami Central high and Holmes elementary schools at the meeting of the Florida Board of Education in Tampa, the school district announced.

Based on the state’s education accountability plan and Florida law, the three schools are now faced with “dire consequences” because they remain on the state’s watch list for possible closure, despite raising their overall grades to “C.”

“Closing our schools is not an option,” Carvalho said. “Our team will travel to Tampa to present a comprehensive argument as to why our appeals should be supported by the Florida Board of Education.  I am only in favor of the continuation of our current improvement plan with enhancements to address the areas where we saw decline.”

Carvahlo will face an uphill task. The district said despite more complex standards in the past year, along with a computer-based mathematics exam and a higher proficiency benchmark for writing, Miami Edison and Miami Central are still projected to get a performance accountability grade of “D” this year.  Holmes Elementary has maintained a “C” for three consecutive years and, the statement said, that school’s appeal “is likely to be approved.”

The district sent appeal letters for the three schools to the Department of Education on July 5.

The Board of Education could recommend one of four options for each school: closure; conversion to charter schools; hiring a private management company to manage the schools or allow the district to continue trying to improve the grades.

According to the district’s announcement,  Miami Edison’s graduation rate is projected to increase to 72 percent for the past academic year, a 23 point increase from two years ago.  Since 2003, reading proficiency has improved 10 points from five to 15 percent; mathematics has improved 28 points from 13 percent to 41 percent; and science has improved from 10 percent to 22 percent since 2006-2007.

The percentage of students in accelerated courses has increased by 26 percentage points in two years, from 19 percent to 45 percent. In two years, the percentage of students considered college ready in reading has increased by 32 percentage points, from 38 percent to 70 percent.

At Miami Central, reading proficiency has improved three percent and mathematics proficiency has improved nine percent since 2008.  Since 2003, mathematics proficiency has improved 24 points, from 23 percent to 47 percent. More students are in accelerated courses and, also, students are succeeding at higher rates.

In 2008-09, 11 percent of students enrolled in accelerated courses passed. In 2010-11, that percentage is expected to increase to 69 percent.

College readiness at Miami Central in reading is also projected to increase, from 56 percent in 2009-10 to 77 percent in 2010-11, the statement said.

Photo by: Khary bruyning/For South Florida Times

Flashback: Students at Miami Central high applaud as President Barack Obama commends them for turning their school around. Obama visited the school in early March to launch Education Month.