Panelists for the State of Education

From left Richard Corcoran; Steve Gallon III; Shevrin Jones

Ahead of a town hall with Florida’s education commissioner, Miami-Dade Public Schools may be showing some cracks in its A-school armor.

The widening fault line is in student achievement – as in how well students meet the goals of the grades in which they are placed.

The student achievement topic caused a fissure between two education advocates on social media last week.

An essential core to student achievement is high-quality instruction.

Students who have effective teachers can gain an additional year of learning over peers who have less effective teachers, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality.

However, The Miami Times has discovered that students are being taught by inexperienced teachers-instructors who have worked less than five years in the classroom. State reports reveal Miami-Dade County public school’s northern inner-city classrooms are severely under-enrolled and schools are staffed with up to 48 percent inexperienced teachers. What’s more, the report also revealed that further south you go in the county, enrollment swells into the thousands with some schools having zero inexperienced teachers in their classrooms.

Seventeen schools in Miami-Dade are among the lowest performing in the state. Eight of them are located in school districts 1 and 2.

Steve Gallon III, school board member of Miami-Dade County Public Schools acknowledges it takes the right combination of leadership and instructional staff to advance learning.

"This remains a conundrum. It has been widely known that the schools with the greatest needs too often have the least qualified teachers," Gallon said in an email to The Miami Times.

More discussion about student achievement will take place during this week's education town hall 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5 at Miami Norland Senior High School in Miami Gardens. The forum will tackle parental involvement and educational equity as they relate to Black and Brown communities.

Guest speakers include Florida's Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, Gallon and forum organizer state Rep. Shevrin Jones.

But just days before the town hall, Gallon and Greater Miami Urban League president and CEO T. Willard Fair squabbled on Facebook over student achievement ceremonies and whether students can read. Gallon every month awards students in different district 1 schools. Fair questioned whether all the students deserved recognition based on their reading achievements.

Gallon believes student achievement isn't just about reading.

"Our children are more than a reading level. I structure the Student of the Month celebrations to celebrate a myriad of achievements by our students: academics, attendance, attitudes, or even actions that speak to respect, generosity, and kindness – things that are not measured on a test," said Gallon.

Fair believes success is based on how well a student can read.

“You can finish first and if you can’t read it will be like you never started,” he said on Facebook Nov. 24.

Fair doubled down in a later interview with The Miami Times on Monday, saying it doesn't make sense to reward students who aren't performing.

"You are dead if you can't read! Student achievement is based on reading, writing and arithmetic. To celebrate success for any other reason is just asinine," said Fair.

Gallon held strong to his corner too and stood by celebrating and encouraging students at every chance.

"I deeply respect and salute Mr. Fair's deep and long-standing service and commitment to the education of our children and uplift our community. However, I will sharply disagree with restricting the honoring and recognition of our children to reading on grade level. It would be anyone's prerogative to do so. But in District 1 it won't be mine," Gallon said in a text to the Miami Times.

Making the grade

At the town hall, Corcoran will go over Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plans for education, which includes increasing the minimum salary for teachers to $47,500 to help alleviate shortages.

Teacher shortages and attractiveness to the profession are also factors impacting our overall state of education.

"There are several factors such as collective bargaining... that influence this. When teachers get to a school where they find success and less demands... they stay," Gallon said.

Jones spearheaded the town hall in an effort to inform the community of what's happening in education.

"I reached out to the commissioner because no one from the department has stopped to talk to our community,” Jones said in a text to The Miami Times. “Our parents deserve to know what’s happening with their children and our education system as a whole. The goal is for the commissioner to share about the status of changes to our standards, and how the department plans on ensuring educational equity for all kids.”

The education town hall will be moderated by Marisol Zenteno, president of the League of Women Voters. The town hall is free.

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