Miami-Dade County Public School Improvement Zone, Florida

*Despite gains made through the Zone Schools Initiative, a joint effort between UTD and Dade County Public Schools, funding ceased to be available to continue the process effective June 2008. The related longer school day and year, professional development as well as the related salary incentives were rescinded due to district budget constraints.


In 2004-2005, Miami's School Improvement Zone, made up of 39 schools within the Miami-Dade County Public Schools, came into being. Located throughout the district, Zone schools have experienced chronic low academic performance and now implement special programs and services aimed at boosting student achievement.

The School Improvement Plan

  • Extended school day and year
  • Additional compensation
  • Mandated common reading curriculum
  • Intensive small-group instruction for select students
  • Block scheduling
  • Site based, job-embedded professional development for teachers
  • Professional development for principals

Labor-Management Partnership that Supports School Improvement

The United Teachers of Dade (UTD) and the district negotiated a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that provides for:

  • Zone schools' longer school day and year, and additional compensation for the additional hours
  • The transfer of teaching staff into and out of the Zone schools in a way that incorporates teacher choice, seniority and the instructional needs of the Zone schools
  • Collaborative planning time for teaching and learning
  • Data-driven professional development, including the provision of a professional development team and professional development plan at each school site
  • A uniform curriculum

Professional Development

One UTD staff member is a full-time dedicated liaison to the Zone schools. Furthermore, the UTD worked with the national affiliate, the American Federation of Teachers, to provide professional development to Zone schools through the union's ER&D program.

Evaluating Progress

Student achievement results have been positive. From 2004-2005 to 2005-2006, the percentage of Zone third graders scoring at or above grade level on the FCAT rose 22 points in reading for third graders and 23 points in math. In comparison, scores for third graders in all of Dade County (including the Zone schools) rose 14 percentage points in reading and 13 percentage points in math during the same period. Secondary gains were more modest.

In addition to student achievement scores, the state of Florida gives each school a letter grade based on student academic progress and overall performance. The schools selected to be part of the Zone district were chosen for their chronic underperformance, and a stated goal of the Zone schools is to eliminate this chronically low-performing distinction. In 2004, 32 of the 37 Zone schools received a D or an F from the state of Florida. In 2006, 28 of these 37 schools had received an A, B or C. The number of A or B schools grew from zero to eight in the two-year period, and the number of D and F schools dropped from 32 to nine during that time.

Read more on Miami-Dade's efforts.