Miami-Dade class sizes fail to meet required reduction
High schools in the state's largest district failed to meet new state class size guidelines.
By Associated Press
Published December 14, 2003
MIAMI - Average class sizes in Miami-Dade County high schools grew slightly this year, leaving the state's largest district in violation of a statewide mandate to shrink the average number of students in classrooms, officials said.
All 67 Florida counties were supposed to reduce average class size by two students this year as part of an amendment approved by voters in November 2002. But in Miami-Dade, the average high school class had 26.07 students in the fall semester, compared to 26.04 in the spring.
New teachers were brought into fourth through eighth grades, but the district just missed the state target in that group. It reduced average class size by 1.80 students to 27.62.
"We're going through the pains of it being the first time we're doing this," Chief Education Officer Mercedes Toural said.
District officials said they focused on hiring more teachers for prekindergarten through third grade, enough to comfortably exceed the state mandate. Those classes were reduced by an average 2.95 students.
Toural blamed the high-school numbers on a variety of accounting and data issues, saying state regulations were sometimes unfair and that software incompatibilities made it difficult to monitor progress and then make adjustments.
Miami-Dade was the only one of the state's six largest districts to fall short in more than one group. Broward County met goals in all three categories, and Palm Beach County missed only on grades four to eight.
As a penalty, state officials could force Miami-Dade to earmark more money for construction of new classrooms, said Alberto Carvalho, who oversees the district's lobbying and legislative affairs.
The district will be allowed to appeal, said Jeanine Blomberg, assistant deputy commissioner of education. Even if an appeal fails, it was not clear this week whether the state would enforce the funding penalties this year.
The state Board of Education will likely discuss class-size issues when it meets Tuesday in Davie, said Frances Marine, spokeswoman for Education Commissioner Jim Horne.
The class-cap measure was opposed by Republicans, especially Gov. Jeb Bush, who balked at the cost and questioned the impact smaller classes have on middle and high school students.
Through 2005, compliance is based on district-wide averages. By 2006, the averages must hold at every school, and by 2008 in every classroom.
The final figures must be no higher than 18 students in kindergarten through third grade, 22 in grades four to eight and 25 in high school.