Making the Grade: Update from Teachers on Spring 2020 and a Look Ahead

by: Adam Newman, John McBratney, and Chris Ostwald | Blog Papers |Jun 23rd, 2020

Back in April, we shared early insights from teachers as to how they and their students were contending with the abrupt transition to remote learning. As an historic school year draws to a close, we wanted to check back on teachers’ spring experience and their perspective on their community’s plans for the 2020-2021 academic year. The quick take – most teachers have little visibility into what the fall might bring, save that most expect students will be behind where they should be academically.

We have highlighted selected findings below from our most recent pulse survey below; more detailed data and analysis can be accessed in our presentation.

How did teachers assess this spring’s remote learning? And what is their impression of Fall 2020 plans?

This teacher pulse survey was in the field the week of June 15 and secured more than 430 respondents representing all grade levels across all 50 states. Our goal was to gauge teachers’ impressions after approximately three months – on average – of teaching remotely and to understand to what extent they were engaged in planning for the new academic year. While we did not test it explicitly, our hypothesis is that the collective bargaining agreements between teachers’ unions and districts may create challenges in ensuring adequate planning time occurs in advance of an historically uncertain back-to-school season. Early feedback from teachers suggest schools and districts will need to enhance their stakeholder communication considerably in the weeks ahead.

Remote learning practices were personalized – are they sustainable?: The principle approaches – as measured by frequency and perceived effectiveness – employed by respondents to teach and engage students this spring were generally one-to-one in spirit – personal emails, individual assignments, and virtual advising and tutoring. Whether these were facilitated technology-enabled solutions or more “manually automated” ones bear further investigation, as well as the extent to which they were the “effect” in response to challenges getting students to submit their work; this latter dynamic was particularly acute for middle and high school respondents.

Not surprisingly, most students have fallen behind academically: Nearly 75% of teachers anticipate their students are “somewhat” or “significantly behind” where they should be academically. The summer and early fall will prove challenging for many districts and schools as they strive to find strategies to counteract learning loss with Covid challenges still present. Among respondents, ~40% anticipate their schools will adjust previous curriculum plans to address students’ current learning levels, and ~20% expect to provide additional tutoring and support to students. High school students may be most at risk, with more than a third of respondents teaching secondary school reporting their schools do not plan to address gaps for the challenging spring semester.

Technology providers played key role for teachers: In April, we asked teachers where they expected to receive support for remote teaching. Back then, nearly half indicated receiving significant support from their peers and colleagues, which was nearly double the response secured from their school/ district office; most other potential resources lagged considerably, including technology providers. When asked again in June, teachers indicated that while peers/ colleagues were a source of support for nearly all (87%), technology providers were the next most frequently assistive (68%). Moreover, ~90% of teachers indicated that technology providers were “effective” in providing support, compared to only 70% who said the same regarding their school/ district office. As states, districts, and schools roll out plans for the fall, it will be interesting to see how technology providers can/ will build on their perceived value.

The 2020-2021 academic year remains a mystery: Few respondents know what to expect for the coming fall school year. Districts, schools, and states are facing a number of challenges as they create plans, and most have yet to share in-depth plans or details with their front-line classroom professionals.

Implementing new structures and processes for remote learning is the highest priority among PreK-5 and high school respondents’ schools and districts, while middle school respondents emphasize establishing class size limits to promote social distancing and working with administrators to create general protocols. Interestingly, respondents neither middle nor high school respondents see communicating with parents or addressing social-emotional learning needs of their students as key elements of their go-forward plan. Do respondents’ districts have these issues under control, or do they foreshadow future risks?

Not only have few plans been communicated to teachers, but nearly half of respondents say they have not been engaged at all in creating plans for this coming school year. For the teachers who are engaged, they are most involved in addressing plans for remote learning and modifying curriculum plans to address student achievement levels and anticipated SEL needs. Surprisingly, planning and accommodating for students with disabilities was seen as a low priority for both schools and teachers’ engagement; while we hope this means districts have solved for the needs of this student population, we think this issue bears watching in the fall.

We expect to spend the summer staying close to these school and classroom dynamics, as well as the evolving budget landscape. If there are other key issues influencing your organizational decision-making that you would like to hear more, let us know.

Notable K-12 reads

A Pennsylvania State University analysis of school spending finds that the funding gap between a top 1 percent district and an average-spending district widened by 32% between 2000 and 2015; the coronavirus recession is likely to increase this gap

States are prioritizing plans for emergency relief funds, including student access to technology and internet, teacher training, and expansion and improvement of curricular materials used for distance learning

Various research studies suggest that by September, most students will have fallen behind where they would have been if they had stayed in classrooms; some students will lose the equivalent of a full school year of academic gains

As learning loss mounts, several big school districts have publicly stated they won’t hold back students due to academic performance during the school closure period

Hundreds of colleges and universities are adjusting their testing requirements in light of the coronavirus pandemic

States, such as Mississippi, are introducing bills to support public school districts with internet devices for the fall

 

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