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Billionaire transplant Kenneth Griffin makes a $9 million donation to Miami-Dade schools

Al Diaz/adiaz@miamiherald.com

Four years after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S., Miami-Dade County Public Schools are still struggling with learning losses that disproportionately impacted students of low-income background.

Now local officials hope a $9 million donation from billionaire, philanthropist and Citadel CEO Kenneth Griffin will help, by expanding intensive math tutoring for students in grades sixth to eighth.

The district will partner with Accelerate, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing tutoring and personalized learning to public schools, and the University of Chicago Education Lab for the tutoring, said MDCPS Superintendent Jose Dotres at a Thursday presser in Miami’s Riviera Middle School.

“This is a very, very special afternoon. It comes down to celebrating and acknowledging that as a school district we cannot do things on our own and sometimes we come together with incredible partners,” Dotres said.

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Griffin, the head of Citadel, a multinational hedge fund and financial services company, didn’t attend the event. Julia Quinn, the director of the Griffin Catalyst, Griffin’s nonprofit, spoke on his behalf. Since moving to Miami, Griffin has made several big donations to local institutions: $50 million to Baptist Health South Florida for research on Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disorders; $50 million to Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami; and $5 million to build 50 “mini-pitches” across Miami-Dade County as part of a plan by the U.S. Soccer Foundation.

“While Ken so wishes that he could’ve joined us today, I can tell you that he shares our collective commitment and enthusiasm to personalized learning and the impact it can drive for students here in Miami-Dade and across the country,” she said. “In fact, during Ken’s early years in Chicago, decades ago, he himself tutored students in math ... and that started a many-decades long commitment to unlocking and expanding access to education for all students.”

At the press conference, Dotres said he’s encouraged and proud that the partners picked the Miami-Dade school district for the initiative.

Sadie Stockdale Jefferson, the executive director of the University of Chicago Education Lab, said university researchers did some studies in Chicago public schools before the pandemic, and they concluded that high-dosage tutoring during the school day could double or triple the amount of learning that kids get in a school year.

After the public health crisis disrupted classrooms across the country in 2020, the Chicago researchers decided to launch a national initiative to implement that tutoring across the country.

At the beginning of this year, the team implemented the tutoring in nine middle schools, serving about a 1,000 students in Miami-Dade, she said. Now they’ll use the funds from Griffin Catalyst to expand those efforts in the next three years and hopefully help thousands more.