Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho is a shining example of a first generation college student who has dedicated his life to ensuring low-income children and youth have access to the sorts of educational opportunities that help them live up to their potential. The schools chief grew up in Portugal in a one-room apartment with no water or electricity, raised by a father who only had a third-grade education. He came to America as a teenager and attended Broward College and Barry University, working multiple construction and kitchen jobs and sleeping in U-Haul trucks on occasion, during stints of temporary homelessness. With a bachelor’s degree in biology in hand, he quickly worked his way up the ladder in Miami-Dade Schools from science teacher to assistant principal to assistant district superintendent to schools chief.
On Thursday, Feb. 13, at the School Superintendents Association conference in Nashville, Tennessee, Carvalho was awarded with the prize for 2014 National Superintendent of the Year. As the Miami-Dade superintendent since 2008, Carvalho has presided over a number of policy changes that have drastically increased the academic successes and levels of college readiness of Miami-Dade high school grads. He vastly expanded AP class and test access across the school district, increasing scores as well as the number of underrepresented minorities taking and passing the rigorous College Board tests. In January, the College Board named Miami Dade the Advanced Placement District of the year.
That same month, research conducted by Florida Tax Watch and Florida State University found that based on Florida Department of Education data over a minimum three-year period from 3,000 high-poverty schools, five Miami-Dade principals delivered the strongest improvements in math and reading achievement test scores in the state. And in 2012, the district was awarded the national Broad Prize, honoring urban school districts that demonstrate great academic improvement while reducing achievement gaps among low-income and underrepresented minority students.
Home to 350,000 students, Miami-Dade contains an extremely diverse school population where more than half of all children have parents who are foreign born. Nearly 75 percent of the student body speaks a language other than English at home.
“I love Miami-Dade and I am absolutely dedicated to this journey that we began five-and-a-half years ago,” Carvalho said in his acceptance speech last week. “What’s left to be done is much greater than what we’ve accomplished. The work is not done, nor am I.”