By Chris Umpierre
Most families with children make a decision on where to buy a home by the quality of local education, and South Florida boasts some of the nation’s top schools.
From Pre-K to PhD, South Florida’s schools are innovative, specialized and nationally-regarded. The region’s schools excel in student achievement, a big factor for homebuyers looking for a local home.
It begins with South Florida’s strong primary educational system, where students learn and develop the fundamentals and studying habits to become successful members of the community and workforce.
South Florida’s four public school systems — Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Broward County Public Schools, the School District of Palm Beach County and the Martin County School District — have each achieved state and national acclaim for their educational programs.
Innovative Public School Districts
Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) is the largest and arguably most acclaimed urban school district in the United States. MDCPS is home to 392 schools and 345,000 students. District students speak 56 different languages and represent 160 countries.
Under Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho, MDCPS has received state and national recognition for unprecedented increases in student achievement and graduation rates. In 2012, MDCPS received one of the nation’s top education prizes --- the Broad Prize for Urban Education — for its overall performance and improvement in student achievement while narrowing achievement gaps among low-income students and students of color.
In November 2016, the White House recognized MDCPS as one of 30 leaders across the nation in personalized learning and innovation. The district offers iPrep Academy and iPrep Math, two educational programs centered on personalized learning. MDCPS also implements technology in the classroom using interactive boards, digital devices and apps.
Miami-Dade has installed over 11,000 interactive boards and distributed 140,000 digital devices in classrooms in addition to setting up 30,000 WiFi access points on school campuses.
MDCPS receives more National Magnet Schools of Merit Awards than any other school district nationally. MDCPS offers 460 choice programs in all grade levels, which is the most of any Florida school district and among the top in the country.
Broward County Public Schools (BCPS), the first fully accredited school system in Florida since 1962, offers 236 schools, centers and technical colleges. BCPS has more than 271,000 students and about 175,000 adult students. BCPS students represent 208 different countries and 181 different languages.
BCPS finished a finalist for the Broad Prize in 2008, 2009 and 2011 because it outperformed other Florida districts serving students with similar family incomes in math at all school levels (elementary, middle and high school) and in reading at the middle and high school levels, according to the Broad Prize methodology
The School District of Palm Beach ranks as the top-performing urban school district in Florida. The school district is the fifth largest in the state of Florida with 185 schools, serving more than 183,000 students. The student population speaks 150 languages.
Education Week recognized the District as having the eighth-highest graduation rate in the nation. Palm Beach County has a higher percentage of “A” and “B” district-operated elementary and middle schools compared to the state and the state’s largest urban school districts, according to the 2014 School Grades.
The Martin County School District, located north of Palm Beach, has the fifth highest graduation rate in the state (88.9 percent in 2014-15 compared to the state average of 77.8 percent). Martin County offers 25 career academy programs at its three high schools and several career and technical education programs at its five middle schools.
Standout Private Schools
South Florida is also home to some of the best private schools in the nation.
Miami’s Ransom Everglades School, located in Coconut Grove, finished as the top-ranked private school in the nation in 2016, according to Niche.com. About 71 percent of the Ransom faculty holds advanced degrees. Twenty years is the average faculty tenure at the school, which has 1,084 students. 100 percent of graduates matriculate to four-year colleges or universities.
Palmer Trinity School, located in the Miami suburb of Palmetto Bay, also has a 100 percent student acceptance into four-year universities. About 67 percent of the faculty has advanced degrees at the school, which has 740 students enrolled in grades six through twelve.
In Broward County, the Pine Crest School finished as the second-best private school in Florida, according to Niche. The all-faith college prep school in Fort Lauderdale boasts a 13:1 student-teacher ratio and a 99 percent four-year matriculation rate to four-year colleges and universities.
Robust Colleges, Universities
Greater Miami ranks as the eighth largest “college town” in the nation because of its 438,000 full-time and part-time students.
South Florida has seven universities/colleges and five law schools. Miami Dade College (92,085 credit students in 2014-15) is the largest and most diverse college in the nation.
The University of Miami, a private institution in Coral Gables, is ranked as the 44th best university in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report rankings for 2017. Miami is ranked No. 1 among Florida schools. Miami’s excellence helps to attract international students.
Florida International University — Miami’s first and only public research university — has the fifth-most international business programs in the nation. FIU, which is classified as an R1 institution for highest research activity, is the nation’s leader in awarding bachelor’s and master’s degrees to Hispanic students.
Barry University in Miami Shores is one of the largest Catholic universities in the Southeast and was recognized as one of “America’s Top Colleges” by Forbes magazine in 2013 for the third consecutive year.
Florida Atlantic University, the first public university in southeast Florida, opened its doors in 1964 and today serves more than 30,000 students at campuses in Boca Raton, Dania Beach, Davie, Fort Lauderdale, Harbor Branch and Jupiter. More than 180 degree programs, 40 research centers are available at the university.