Survey: Most principals against holding students back a year

Table of Contents

Dive Brief:

  • More than three-fourths of principals say they expect student achievement in their schools to be somewhat or much lower than it was in the fall of 2019, and almost 70% of teachers say addressing achievement gaps will become a higher priority next school year, according to the latest results of the RAND Corp’s educator surveys.
  • Most principals are leaning against having students repeat a grade — 84% said no. But providing tutoring, summer school or supplemental courses to help students catch up next year are all options they are considering for either some or all students.
  • At least two-thirds of teachers also responded that through distance learning, they are teaching half or less of the material they would have covered if they were still in class. The majority of both teachers and principals also expect to be focusing more on students’ social and emotional needs next school year.

Dive Insight:

Drawing responses from 1,000 teachers and more than 950 school leaders between April 27 and May 11, the surveys provide a view into how schools are still trying to connect with students and families, and the worries on educators’ minds as they head into the summer. Building on existing surveys and databases working to capture how the relationship between schools and students has changed during closures, the researchers aimed to draw more responses from schools serving large percentages of nonwhite students and those in low-income families.  

“The over samples enable us to examine disparities in supports that could increase because of school closures and other effects of COVID-19,” the authors write. The researchers also include responses from “target” schools — those in which at least half of the student enrollment is black or Hispanic and at least half qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

Comparing target and nontarget schools, a few differences emerge. Schools serving poor and nonwhite students are more likely to be focusing on review material during distance learning instead of new lessons. Thirty percent of teachers in nontarget schools, for example, said they are teaching mostly new content with some review, compared to 17% of teachers in target schools. In addition, 13% of nontarget schools said they were teaching all new material, compared to 5% of teachers in target schools. 

There were also differences between the two groups’ responses regarding how much schoolwork students are completing. While about a quarter of teachers in nontarget schools said students are completing all or nearly all of the distance learning activities they are assigned, 9% of teachers in target schools said this was the case. 

Teachers in target schools were also more likely than those in nontarget schools to say they are providing hard copies of materials to students — 63% compared to 47%. Those results are in line with the finding that principals in target schools are more likely than those in nontarget schools to say students’ lack of internet access and devices is a “major limitation” in providing distance learning materials. 

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