As the school year draws to a close, parents, teachers and other school officials across South Florida are now debating an appropriate course of action for students who have failed numerous classes because of COVID-19.
The pandemic, which forced students to switch to remote learning for several months, is being blamed for a sharp increase in failures in school districts across the country.
In South Florida, Broward County Public School (BCPS) Superintendent Robert Runcie said that in 2020, there were over 50,000 students in the district who were not making adequate academic progress due to COVID-19 and remote learning.
“We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of students who have one or more failing grades. That number has gone up from 4% to 11%. The number of students that have 15 or more absences in the first quarter also increased, from 1,700 to over 8,200. And of great concern, is the 59,000 students we’ve identified who are not making adequate academic progress,” Runcie said in January, as he addressed the mass resignation of teachers.
The situation is particularly frustrating for teachers in South Florida who have had to change their approach to cater to numerous failing students. Some teachers in Broward County believe that students who have failed classes should be retained for the next school year.
“As a history teacher, I believe that students who failed this year due to covid-19 should be repeated. We’re not pushing our students. They need the correct education and the right guidance in order to be pushed through grades. If we’re pushing students through and they’re failing horribly, they won’t get the right foundation and go on to be successful,” said 8th-grade BCPS teacher, Alain Filius.
Brittany Okorie, a 6th-grade ELA BCPS teacher, also told Caribbean National Weekly that, “I do believe the failing students should be retained. Right now, they’re already delayed. If you let them go on to the next school year, there is going to be a learning gap and its going to be harder for them to catch on which also makes it harder for the teacher because they have to go back to lessons from previous grades. They should be retained to help bridge that gap.”
Another BCPS teacher, Stephanie Bouliver, said the district needs to take into consideration the traumatic impact of the pandemic on students.
“I think that this year, there is a definite change. The pandemic has affected students outside the classroom and definitely in the classroom. There needs to be a consideration for the trauma of it all,” she told Caribbean National Weekly.
“They need to definitely make sure that the students have some form of enrichment in the summer and in extreme cases, where it’s obvious that the student will not be able to be successful in the next grade, then retention is the only other option.”
The leaders in the school districts in South Florida have said that they believe the increase in failures was caused by the switch to online learning. They have encouraged parents to send their children back into the classroom as soon as possible.