Enid Weisman, Miami-Dade schools’ chief human capital officer, said that transfers have been allowed for years but were ramped up in 2009 amid aggressive state laws intended to pull perennially failing schools out of their ruts and under the administration of then-new Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. She said transfers were usually done with feedback from teacher union leaders. Union leaders did not respond to requests seeking comment Monday.
“Almost exclusively, these were low-performing schools facing state sanctions,” Weisman said. “It’s not done as an ‘I got you.’ I can’t do it because I don’t like you. That’s arbitrary and capricious. We did it — and lots of other things we’ve done — to improve teacher quality.”
Pablo Ortiz, associate superintendent in charge of the district’s Education Transformation Office, which oversees struggling schools, said that involuntary transfers were “step one” in the overhaul of failing schools. For instance, Miami Edison Senior High, where he was principal in 2009, replaced half its staff that year under a state mandate after receiving failing grades for years.
But he and Weisman said that involuntary transfers have now been scaled back because the need to move teachers has been greatly reduced.
“Stability is also an important factor in transforming these schools,” Ortiz said.
Grissom, the professor, said there can be lessons for other districts in the results of Miami-Dade’s transfers. He said the study has its limitations, such as the short, three-year time period. But the results show that transfers can be used successfully to improve equity in teaching in urban schools.
“We thought this seemed like an important issue,” he said. “This is something that has broader implications.”