Written by Patricia Hawke for

Recent education reforms in the state of Florida have shown to be of benefit to the students in Orange County Schools. The reforms have hit their intended target – low-income minority kids.
More students than ever are reading at grade level in Orange County Schools. More low-income Orange County Schools students are also enrolling in Advanced Placement classes and taking the SATs.  Once failing inner-city schools are getting As. A recent report on the nation’s largest urban school districts gave Orange County Schools high marks for boosting the performance of kids from all racial and economic backgrounds. 
Orange County Schools is the second largest employer in Central Florida. It employs 836 administrators, 342 at the district level, 454 at the school level and 40 at the technical level. The system employs 13,107 instructional faculty, 8,546 classified employees, and 3,380 part-time positions, with a grand total of 25,869. The instructional and classified personnel make up nearly 97% of Orange County Schools workforce. A large percentage of its teachers – 37% to be exact – have advanced degrees.  34% of those hold Master’s Degrees and the rest hold Specialist’s or Doctorate degrees.
Orange County Schools had 68 teachers who earned certification last year from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), the teaching profession’s highest credential. Orange County Schools have a total of 537 nationally certified teachers, one of the highest numbers in the state. The beginning salary for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree is $35,895. If that teacher holds a master’s degree, it is $38,399, for a specialist’s degree, $39,734, and for a doctorate, $40,958. The average pay for teachers is $40,415 per year. In addition, Orange County Schools contributes an average of $11,958 per teacher per year for benefits such as life insurance, health insurance, FICA, and retirement. 
The United States Department of Education (DOE) announced on May 31, 2007, that Orange County Schools earned a $27.3 million dollar grant to retain and hire teachers and administrators at 10 middle (Jones, Evans, and Oak Ridge) and high schools (Carver Memorial, Meadowbrook, Walker, Westridge, Robinswood, and Howard). This teacher incentive fund means that teachers at those Orange County Schools can earn up to $4,000 more per year. The bonus is based on increased student achievement levels. In Florida, Orange County Schools earned the largest amount of money from the US DOE for teacher incentive purposes. 
Students in Orange County Schools come from 179 different countries and speak 137 different languages and dialects. The system currently serves more than 177,000 students, in 170 schools. 117 of those schools are elementary schools, with 82,115 students. There are 32 middle schools with 38,885 students, 17 high schools with 50,169 students, 4 exceptional education schools with 450 students, and students who attend alternative/charter schools number 5,689. 
Orange County Schools boasts a graduation rate of 72.2%, which is above the state average.  The dropout rate is 1.9%, well below the state average of 3.5%.
Over the last three years, Orange County Schools have had record numbers of high school students scoring at college level on Advanced Placement (AP) exams. AP enrollment has increased for all student groups, but especially among African Americans and Hispanics.