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In Miami, Success Translates Very Well

School adapted to demographic shift, continues to succeed

Coral Way Elementary School

More than 40 years ago, a revolution on a Caribbean island forever changed the face of education in South Florida. In the decades following Fidel Castro's rise to power in Cuba, hundreds of thousands of Cuban refugees came to Miami in search of opportunities that were no longer available to them in their homeland. The Miami neighborhood known as "Little Havana," a unique microcosm of Cuban culture, was established and began to thrive. Educators at Coral Way Elementary School, in the heart of this community, knew that adjustments were needed in order to meet the needs of this new, diverse population. This is how Coral Way Elementary became the first bilingual public school of the modern era.

A Title I school with a 91% minority population, the school's dual language program serves 1,400 students from Pre-K to 5th grade. There is a 60% English, 40% Spanish distribution across the curriculum providing a balanced bilingual approach to education. One third of the school's students have limited English proficiency, but that has not stood in the way of progress and achievement. This year, the school earned its second consecutive and third overall "A" since 1999. Lead Teacher Cecilia Langley says that few should be surprised by the school's success. "We have high expectations for every student, regardless of their background or language skills," she said.

Teachers are available for FCAT tutoring before and after school, and English classes are offered for the parents in the community. The school also maintains a unique partnership with the Government of Spain, allowing for school credit to be fully transferable between schools in that country and Coral Way Elementary.

The experience of attending Coral Way has a profound impact on the students. An impact so profound that a former student, Dr. Pablo Ortiz, is now the school's new principal. In fact, he insisted that this be his new assignment. As in most successful institutions, there is an atmosphere of family here. "Our decisions are always made as a team," said Langley. "We're proud of what we have accomplished as a result." Fifth graders leaving Coral Way Elementary can continue their dual-language education at nearby Shenandoah and G.W. Carver Middle Schools.

Visit Coral Way Elementary on the web at