The numbers are depressing. In recent weeks, NBC 6 has reported several times on the thousands of South Florida public school students who are failing or close to failing.
It’s hard to compare Broward to Miami-Dade County because each school district uses different metrics, but according to the superintendents, Broward has about 8,000 students who are chronically truant and disengaged from school, and Miami-Dade has about 10,000 in that category. Each district is trying to re-engage those kids with various strategies.
Broward is trying free, one-on-one online tutoring. The program is called Ask Bria, an acronym for Broward Remote Instructional Assistant. Students can access a teacher Monday through Thursday, from 3:15 to 8:30 p.m.
Marie Rho is an instructional facilitator during the school day, and after the bell rings, she teaches kids through Ask Bria.
“We literally help from kindergarten all the way to high school and so we have parents sometimes that continually call us because the work is very difficult for them to understand and explain to their children,” Rho said. “Content area does not matter. We help with math, English, writing, whatever the student needs at that time.”
Right now, anywhere from 300 to 500 students use the service every week, but Broward Schools is trying to ramp up that number because it sees this as a tool to re-engage students who are falling through the pandemic cracks.
“We are meeting kids as well as their families at hours that may be convenient for them,” said Dr. Valeria Wanza, the district’s Chief Performance and Accountability Officer.
The district sent an email Monday to families reminding them that Ask Bria is a resource their kids can be using.
“I think Bria is a great way to reach those kids who may not feel comfortable while they’re online to ask for help, or maybe they were in class but really retained only 10% of the information,” Rho said.
As we reported last month, the district has been making house calls to reach the chronically truant kids. They’re also focusing on the 59,000 students they’ve identified as having severe academic challenges.
“And we have exhausted every measure that we can, enlisting not just school support but our social workers, counselors, obviously our classroom teachers who are at the very front lines,” Wanza said. “We are working relentlessly to not only have those students re-engage in school but to come back physically into the school building so they can connect not only with the academic support they need but also those wrap-around social and emotional services.”
It’s all hands on deck to get kids back on track.