The system of education in Miami is overseen by Miami-Dade County Public Schools, one of the USA's largest school districts.
The district has invested heavily in bringing public education into the digital age, with many students and teachers at schools in Miami using computer-driven learning platforms.
But it's also had a history of challenges, including funding shortages and student overpopulation at certain schools. As a result, there's a gulf in quality between schools, which is often determined by where they're situated.
On a more positive note, this means that expat parents have a wide spectrum of choices between inner-city schools and some of the best schools in the USA.
Expats with children who don't speak English as a first language will also be relieved since extra English classes are available to migrant children who need it.
While most expats find a public school that satisfies their requirements, others prefer private education.
Public schools in Miami
Students attend schools in Miami based on where they live, except for a few magnet schools for which children must pass a test to be accepted.
There's been increased emphasis on building magnet schools and converting existing schools to operate on this model for several years. Unlike regular public schools, magnet schools in Miami often emphasise a particular focus area and have a competitive admissions process which enables them to draw from a talented pool of students outside of their immediate catchment area.
They often enjoy better reputations, lower drop-out rates and more diversity than standard public schools. Some of the best schools in Florida, and the USA as a whole, include the city's magnet schools which specialise in fields like maths, science, technology and the arts.
Charter schools are public schools that are bound by a performance contract with the district school board in exchange for being able to pursue a curriculum other than the state-mandated curriculum.
This gives expat parents more scope in choosing a school that suits their child’s talents and personality at various levels of education.
The balance between freedom and accountability means that charter schools in Miami are among some of the best in the state. Unlike most private schools, charter schools are non-profit organisations which are partly funded by the Florida Department of Education.
Private and international schools in Miami
A significant proportion of expat students attend private schools in Miami, many of which offer religious, and particularly Catholic, instruction. These tend to have good reputations and superior facilities at a higher cost than public schools.
Gaining admission to one of the city’s private schools can be difficult, and expat families should be prepared for entrance exams, interviews, extensive school tours and open days for potential students.
Many of these institutions provide financial aid to qualifying students who can't afford tuition. However, this shouldn't be counted on as funding availability is also highly competitive and may have certain restrictions.
International schools in Miami which offer overseas curricula are unfortunately limited, although a number of private and charter schools do offer the International Baccalaureate curriculum.
Homeschooling in Miami
Parents who wish to homeschool their children in Miami need to file a notice of intent to homeschool with the county superintendent. The superintendent will then accept the notice and register the home education program.
Parents who choose to homeschool their children themselves will need to keep a portfolio of records and materials. Things to keep include a log of educational activities, worksheets, workbooks, materials created by the student, etc. Children will also have to be evaluated annually by a teacher registered in Florida or a licensed psychologist. Another option is for children to take a state student assessment test used by the school district under conditions approved by the school district.
Parents can also choose to enrol their child under an "umbrella" school. This school then takes on the responsibility of overseeing the homeschool program while the child still receives their schooling at home.
Special needs education in Miami
Public schools in the Miami-Dade County follows a policy of maximum inclusion. The city even has an Inclusive Schools Week which is a national movement to encourage schools to give special needs students more opportunities when it comes to taking classes and participating in activities with their general education peers.
Miami also boasts some excellent special education private schools. These schools primarily serve specific groups of students like children with learning difficulties, speech or hearing impairments, handicapped students, etc.
Parents of special needs students should contact the school district and network with other parents to find their perfect fit school.
Tutoring in Miami
Miami has a wide range of options when it comes to tutoring. Parents can enrol their children in tutoring centres, enlist the help of a private tutor for one-on-one or group classes, or even find tutors online.
A unique tutoring option in Miami is found in the Miami-Dade Public Library System. Certified teachers are available to meet with small groups of children between grades K-12 at the city's public libraries. These teachers provide help with homework and tutoring in reading, math and science. Tutoring sessions usually last an hour and are held on Saturdays. The best part is that this option is free of charge.
► Working in Miami gives an overview of the city's employment environment
Are you an expat living in Miami?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Miami. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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