Eight months ago, Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) joined hundreds of school districts across the globe when it was forced to physically close its facilities and transition to distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The prolonged time away from teachers, in-person learning and the schoolhouse caused students to experience unparalleled pressures, which will likely cause some to fall behind academically. For many students, particularly for our youngest learners, this will translate into the exacerbation of a persistent and pervasive achievement/opportunity gap. To address these issues, the District has developed and is implementing strategies to evaluate students based on their current level of academic achievement.
Since the pandemic started, District staff has closely monitored and analyzed student progress on numerous metrics, including performance in Reading and Math, course grades and attendance/engagement. Throughout the process, the school system has revisited and begun recalibrating many existing strategies to support students and families and improve overall achievement. The importance of monitoring various data elements related to academic accountability has been elevated to ensure every effort is made to help mitigate student regression.
There are probably no factors more important to a student’s progress in school than regular and punctual attendance. Students who are excessively tardy or absent from the instructional program will fall behind in academic achievement. Excessive school absenteeism precedes grade failure, loss of interest and may result in students withdrawing from school.
Parental participation, particularly for our youngest learners, is especially important for students who are engaged in My School Online (MSO). Parents are urged to check in frequently with their child throughout the day to ensure they have logged on and are actively engaged. Attendance is taken in each class in MSO, as it is in the Schoolhouse Model of learning. Parents are also encouraged to monitor their child’s attendance through the Parent Portal. They can sign up for attendance email notifications by clicking on the “View Grades & Attendance” button.
M-DCPS has developed a variety of initiatives and tools designed to improve student attendance, based upon the level of absences.
School-wide Programming for Attendance Support - for students with five absences (either face-to-face or MSO). An action plan is implemented, which includes personal calls to the home; home visits; parent conferences; referrals or services; attendance-review committee meetings; meetings with families to develop a support plan; and establishing incentives to focus on school climate.
Targeted School Interventions with External/Community Support – for students with more than five absences. Building upon the strategies outlined above, this plan includes support for schools in locating and engaging students and families; providing student mentoring; and District support from Mental Health Services, Miami-Dade Schools Police and School Operations, as well as from
community-based organizations that currently offer and provide educational services and programs.
Intensive School & Community Interventions – for students with more than 10 absences and disengaged students. This plan provides intensive case management coordinated with Region, District, School Police and community-based organizations. Also at this level, public agencies, such as public housing authorities, municipalities and the Department of Children and Families are engaged to assist in locating disengaged students.
To ensure all stakeholders remain informed, the District is deploying a multi-pronged campaign to leverage ongoing media and community engagement opportunities with targeted communications to specific populations.
• A comprehensive, targeted outreach effort focuses on 6,000 students district-wide who meet specific disengagement criteria.
• District staff members are assigned to students, based on the students’ individual needs, to assist schools in locating them to ensure they are engaged.
• Global messaging to increase attendance by encouraging students to #ShowUpMDCPS, via their learning model of either MSO or Schoolhouse.
• #IGetMySelfietoSchool – A peer-to-peer engagement strategy, encouraging students to post their selfies participating in schooling.
• #WishYouWereHereMDCPS – A targeted strategy to help schools showcase their success.
• Community-specific media engagement in multiple languages.
• Collaboration with community-based organizations to assist in messaging to families and students.
• Partnerships with community-wide organizations to support #ShowUpMDCPS messages.
• Leveraging of partnerships with local sports teams and other stakeholders.
• Connection with mentoring partners to support messaging through their mentors to mentees.
• Ongoing messaging to active school volunteers, who are supporting schools virtually.
• Engagement of internship providers who are mentoring high school juniors and seniors.
The District is also continuing with #EnrollMDCPS,- an ongoing campaign that was launched this past summer, which focuses on public school enrollment in specific populations/areas of the community.
For the most up-to-date information, please download the Dadeschools mobile app to your iPhone or Android device. Follow us on Twitter @mdcps and @miamisup, on Instagram @miamischools and @miamisup, and on Facebook at MiamiSchools and AlbertoCarvalho
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