NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

School Choice on Display in Miami-Dade

August 21, 2014

Florida's push to inject more choice into its education system is on display in Miami-Dade County where more than half of the county's students will start the 2013-2014 school year in schools that they themselves were able to choose.

Christina Veiga in the Miami Herald reports that the growth of charter schools in the Miami-Dade region has injected competition into the region. 35,000 students were enrolled in charters in Miami-Dade in the 2010-2011 school year, a figure that has jumped to 56,000 this year.

Notably, traditional public schools are responding -- not by opposing the growth of charters, but by competing to offer their own version of choice. Not only has the district created 52 new choice programs for the 2013-2014 school year, it has started marketing its programs to families across Florida.

In fact, most choice options in Miami-Dade are the district's magnet schools, and the programs are unique:

  • One of Miami-Dade's magnet schools is Biotech, a program with laboratories that even some colleges do not have. It partners with scientists at Zoo Miami and Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden to give students the chance to work outside of the classroom environment, and students are expected to conduct their own research projects.
  • Another of the district's magnet programs is iTech. Students wear business attire as teachers train them for business careers in the technology industry, and they have the chance to use 3D printers, drones and advanced computer systems.

The district is offering 500 choice programs this year, up from less than 300 in 2007. Many parents have enrolled their children in different types of programs in the area -- whether magnets or charters -- as they have sought stronger academic experiences, smaller classes and programs aimed at their students' interests. This is consistent with what John Merrifield, NCPA senior fellow, has explained about school choice: it offers students options that are tailored to their own interests, and the resulting engagement leads to better learning and a better classroom experience for students as well as for educators.

Source: Christina Viega, "'Choice schools' become the norm in Miami-Dade," Miami Herald, August 17, 2014. 


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