With the stress of virtual classes, a lack of interaction with peers, and a global pandemic, students are experiencing academic and emotional problems.
After the most atypical year in the recent history of humanity, traversed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the consequences are felt at all levels, from health to the economy, through the education of children.
In South Florida, as in most of the world, minors experienced enormous uncertainty, oscillating between face-to-face and virtual classes, with the rules changing every time the bubble burst.
Consequently, the results of the standardized tests that students take in Florida public schools have shown that in Miami-Dade, 43% of children in preschool through third grade are below the expected level in reading and proficiency. 54% or demonstrated a delay in math.
In neighboring Broward County, tests showed that most second and fifth-grade children are behind in reading. Seventeen percent of second graders had a reading level two grades below their age, while 28% of fifth-graders lagged two or more steps behind in their reading level. In this same school district, first graders were two grades below what would be expected for their age, while fourth and fifth graders were two levels or more behind in math.
But the problems are not just academic. According to statements by former Broward superintendent of schools Robert Runcie, about 65,000 students in South Florida are experiencing social and emotional issues.
The Miami-Dade school district is the largest in Florida, and the fourth-largest, with more than 245,000 students in public schools. For its part, Broward has 204 thousand students in its public system.
To counter this reality, Miami-Dade and Broward school districts are taking proactive steps that include hiring more teachers, tutors, and mental health counselors and promoting greater involvement of parents in the educational process, and building partnerships. So that minors have access to good programs for after-school hours.
In Miami-Dade, about $ 823 million was received from the federal rescue plan approved by Congress, which will be used in its entirety to support children trying to make up for the losses of the previous year. Broward received about $ 257 million for the same purpose.
Miami-Dade has hired 400 new teachers for the school year that begins in late August; Broward has 462 new teaching positions, though many part-time.
The idea is that many of these new teachers are in charge of support programs, where young people are taught study methods, or they concentrate on reading or mathematics, without the need to carry an entire class, like traditional teachers. Instead, their role is more like trainers in specific topics than educators in the classical concept.
The other important topic will be the mental health of the students. With new mental health coordinators, it is expected that the minors will find in school the necessary emotional support to process the fears and doubts that returning to a traditional face-to-face school system may generate.