With more than 271,000 students and about 175,000 adult learners in 236 schools, Broward County Public Schools is the second largest school district in Florida (trailing only Miami-Dade County Public Schools) and the sixth largest in the entire nation.
So getting the county’s community and education leaders working toward the same goal of improving postsecondary attainment for all students could seem like a daunting task.
“Being the sixth largest school district in the U.S., it’s going to require a lot of coordination, effort, and time,” said Ralph Aiello, director of school counseling for Broward County Public Schools and BRACE (Broward Advisors for Continuing Education), a program unique to the county that offers students information on scholarships, financial aid, and the college application process.
Fortunately, the county recently took a significant step toward coordinating those efforts.
In January, local leaders hosted the first meeting of Broward Bridge to Life, a local college access network (LCAN) comprised of members from about 60 school district, business, and community-based organizations. The Children’s Services Council of Broward County — which provides early learning and reading skills, after school programs, and other children’s support services as part of its broader “cradle to career” strategy — has assumed a coordination role in partnership with Broward’s school district.
The goal of the new LCAN is to establish a college-going culture and dramatically increase college readiness, access, and completion rates for students within Broward.
“There’s a lot of opportunity out there in this county, whether students want to pursue university, technical college, the military, or go right into the workforce,” Aiello said. “However, they’re not always aware of their options or how to pursue those options. And even if they know what they want and how to get there, they often don’t have the resources to get there.”
During this 2016-17 school year, Broward began implementing Naviance — college and career readiness software — for all students in grades 6-12 in district schools. Aiello said Naviance has already become a central tool for college access.
Broward Bridge to Life members meet once a month. The LCAN’s current priorities include taking stock of the county’s resources, which includes developing some sort of tracking system to determine what students are being served by which programs.
“We’re looking at how to create an asset map and developing a common event calendar so we can reduce the duplication of events,” Aiello said. He added that even Bridge to Life’s current name might undergo a makeover. “We’re still in the discovery phase, and a new name is one of the things we’re talking about.”