Survey: Teachers support school closures, worry about students falling behind

Dive Brief:

  • Eighty-four percent of teachers agree with states’ and districts’ decisions to close schools due to COVID-19, but more than half are concerned students will struggle to learn in a virtual environment and fall behind academically, according to survey results released Thursday.
  • Conducted by the Association of American Educators Foundation, affiliated with a nonunion organization, the online survey focused on how prepared teachers felt they were to shift their instruction to a virtual environment. Three-fourths of the respondents — 88% of which work in traditional public schools — said they felt their readiness to teach remotely was “at least average,” while 42% said their broader educational communities were unprepared for closures.
  • Only a fifth felt their districts had sufficient plans in place for providing services to students with special needs, while 46% responded that their district’s plans for supporting special education students were insufficient.

Dive Insight:

While the survey returned only 700 responses, it’s one of the first attempts to capture data on how teachers are adjusting to this shift. Such knowledge will become increasingly important with some experts suggesting that closures could extend into the 2020-21 school year, or that at least additional closures will be necessary. The voices of teachers can help districts determine how to create ongoing support when all educators teach remotely — during this crisis or a future one. 

Another early source on how prepared districts were for such an abrupt shift is the Center on Reinventing Public Education’s database of districts’ closure response plans. The data addresses questions such as how teachers are providing instruction online, the state of internet access for students and how districts are helping parents adjust. 

CRPE is also part of a project with the RAND Corp. that will provide additional data on districts’ experiences. “RAND and CRPE are closely coordinating our efforts to understand how schools and districts are addressing the new COVID-19 landscape, and we do plan to draw on both organizations’ findings to inform our data collection for the new district panel,” said Laura Hamilton, who directs RAND’s Center for Social and Emotional Learning Research. “We’re providing some assistance with CRPE’s review of district websites, and we’re also planning to do some teacher and principal surveys that will supplement the district work.”

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