Grantee Corner  |  Miami-Dade County Public Schools

A male and a female student look at a 3D printer
iTech students use a 3D printer to craft prototypes

A male student works at a computer with two screens
iTech student uses ArcGis technologies to research statistical data

A male and female student look into small boxes
iTech students test virtual reality eyeglasses designed in the iCode magnet strand

Two male students stand over a table with a GIS map displayed on it
iTech students map location plots on an interactive geographical information system board

A group of students work around a table
iTech Enterprise Resource Planning magnet strand students work collaboratively on their business plan design

A male student sits next to an unmanned aerial vehicle and holds the controller
iTech summer program student prepares an unmanned aerial vehicle to collect data

Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) is the fourth largest school district in the country, serving nearly 345,000 students, of whom 91 percent are minority and 73 percent are economically disadvantaged. The student population also includes 68,000 English language learners and 34,000 students with disabilities. The county’s vision for 21st century education calls for every student to have a postsecondary education and career plan. This plan will help students succeed in a fast-moving, highly technological global society that increasingly emphasizes science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

In addition to funding the BioTECH @ Richmond Heights 9-12 High School featured in the September 2015 Grantee Corner, the Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) also funds M_DCPS’ iTech @ Thomas A. Edison Educational Center. This magnet school is the district’s premiere technology high school, and provides students with the most advanced technology to support a rigorous science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) curriculum. 

With MSAP funds, the school opened at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year. The grant has funded teacher professional development, a 2-week student orientation summer camp, and advanced equipment, software, and supplies for the classrooms. In addition, MSAP funds have supported the collaboration between iTech and Miami Dade College for curriculum alignment and articulation. The funds also support a dual enrollment program with the College that enables students to graduate with a high school diploma and an Associate of Science degree. Students can also earn industry certifications while enrolled at iTech. 

The school has three magnet strands: Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Geospatial Information Systems (GIS), and iCode. Each magnet strand blends core subjects with project-based learning. Incoming iTech students participate in a 2-week orientation that introduces the strands and the learning strategies they will use at the school.

The ERP strand places students in a business learning environment where they can solve real-world business problems. Students are exposed to business processes such as human resources, payroll, e-recruiting, and finance. 

The GIS strand enables students to analyze and interpret data using global positioning software (GPS). The state-of-the-art technology and software allow students to problem-solve with their data and plot results with high-tech digital mapping techniques. 

The iCode strand focuses on applying and developing software using various operating system platforms. Students are introduced to the latest software, such as Microsoft Visual Studios, which supports the creation of apps for multiple platforms within an integrated environment. The partnership with Microsoft has been essential to providing the most advanced software, plus a server system to manage, store, and process data across the magnet strands. Students build, design, create, and operate programs through this dedicated server purchased with MSAP funds. 

Currently, iTech collaborates with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), using technology at various FEMA worksites. Students interact with real-world applications and make virtual visits to authentic worksites.    

The M-DCPS grant administration team consists of co-project directors and a project coordinator. Co-director Dr. Robert Strickland oversees and directs the district office of School Choice and Parental Options; he has more than 20 years of experience as an administrative leader. Co-director Vanassa Washington has more than 25 years of experience with M-DCPS in administrative leadership, community relations, and curriculum development. She provides project oversight and serves as the project’s Business and Community Partnership Facilitator. Project coordinator Susan O’Connor has more than 37 years of experience in the district and 15 in magnet education. She coordinates and guides project implementation, serves as liaison between project partners and the district, and provides curricular support.