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Teacher Survey Project

Teachers reflect on how students are doing after returning to school

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Introduction

From April 30 through May 20, 2021, Teacher Consultant Response Network members responded to a survey about their experiences with the reopening of their schools for in-person instruction amid the waning coronavirus pandemic.

One hundred thirty-six leading teachers responded to 27 survey questions and offered almost 1,900 thoughtful comments.

This spotlight focuses on students and teachers’ perspectives on how students are faring now that schools are reopening after distance learning for over a year. There are four sections in this spotlight:

The Data: Survey questions about students returning to in-person school

For teachers in schools that have reopened, we ask about how their students are doing with the transition, if students are happy to be back, and if their feelings about returning to teaching in person have changed now that they see students on campus. As we reported in the spotlight about schools reopening, a large majority of teachers have been vaccinated and stated that this strongly influenced how they felt about teaching on-site.

For your students, to what extent has the transition to reopening been difficult? (n=123)

To note:

Comments

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Students have had so much change that it was yet another readjustment.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 74% low-income students in the Inland Empire

I don’t think the reopening has been difficult for students. As I mentioned, the time they are actually on campus is only three hours, so it makes it a little difficult to cover all the material with them in person.

– A teacher in a middle school with 0% low-income students in the Northern Delta-Sierra Foothills

I think that the students whose families decided to return to in-person learning have not had a very difficult transition. I do feel for the students who are still at home, especially those who are at home not exactly by choice but because they do not have transportation or have familial responsibilities at home that means that they cannot attend in person. I feel this has increased the emotional burden that these kids must carry.

– A teacher in a middle school with 79% low-income students on the Central Coast

They have found the transition do-able … but maybe not worthwhile … as they discover this is just study hall.

– A teacher in a high school with 66% low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area

Many of my high schoolers got jobs during the pandemic to help their families so coming back to school this late in the year was not an option for many.

– A teacher in a high school with 90% low-income students in the San Diego area

Depending upon parents’ work schedules it is very difficult to get kids to school for only 3 hours during the middle of the day.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 67% low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area

Not everyone can get to school — it is not safe for all kids to walk there, and many are taking care of siblings.

– A teacher in a high school with 79% low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area

Kids who we never saw in Distance Learning, we are now seeing them on campus 2 days a week — but they still aren’t attending classes on Zoom on the other 3 days.

– A teacher in a high school with 85% low-income students in the Sacramento area

Students who struggled in distance learning are still struggling. The students who elected to stay home did so for various reasons — most of which are outside their control.

– A teacher in a high school with 90% low-income students in the Central Valley

 

For your students, to what extent do you agree with the following statements?

“Those students who have returned to school for in-person learning are happy to be back” (n=118)

“I was hesitant at first about returning to campus, but now that I see the students on campus being together and having fun, I’m glad we are in person.” (n=112)

To note:

Comments:
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For the students that have opted-in to come back, in person learning is a very, very good thing.

– A teacher in a high school with 66% low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area

While I don’t think that reopening was necessarily the best option for my school, it is great seeing my students happy around campus. It just breaks my heart for the families who chose not to send their kids to school. Those students feel left out for the rest of the year.

– A teacher in a middle school with 79% low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area

I am thrilled to be back on campus and working directly with kids. But, without proper safety measures this would be scary, and I would not want to be here.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 96% low-income students on the North Coast

All of our students came back in person, and they have all been positive and happy to show up every day. One thing that has been harder than other years is that this year kids expect to be heard right away and have things done for them right away. They don’t register when others are talking at all, and don’t yet have the concept of taking turns to speak. … They’ll get it, but I think it will take longer this year.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 17% low-income students on the North Coast

Students are socially uncomfortable and have more difficulty interacting with other students than before.

– A teacher in a high school with 29% low-income students in the Los Angeles area

They love being back on campus in the same room with other kids. They miss how things “used to be.”

– A teacher in an elementary school with 31% low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area

The children were happy to be here, but now the novelty is starting to wear off. We are in week 3 and absences are up, engagement is down, the protocols are getting tiresome, the mask-wearing is bothering them.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 88% low-income students in the Inland Empire

The few students that chose to come back have told me that they are happy to be there, but there is a definite inequity, and it is much easier for distance learning students to disengage.

– A teacher in a high school with 65% low-income students in the Los Angeles area

Many of my students wanted to come back on campus, but parents would not let them for health and social concerns, so they are more disengaged and separated from the group dynamic than they were before when we were all distance learning. Some of my best students’ quality of work has gone down, but that could also be because it is the end of the year, and they are just “done” and ready for a break.

– A teacher in a high school with 65% low-income students in the Los Angeles area

The Data: Survey questions about teachers’ perspectives on how students are doing

Teachers responded to questions about any differences they have noticed in their students compared to last time they taught them in person and whether or not their students are doing better now than they were when most schools were closed to in-person learning.

Compared to the last time you taught students in person, what do you now notice about your students in regard to the following items?

“Their excitement about being in school again is …”
(n=111)

 

 “The variation between the most engaged and least engaged students is …”
(n=111)

To note:

Comments

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My students are so excited to be back in school, even though many of them don’t want to admit it. However, their ability to participate in group activities has gone down so much. On Zoom, if they didn’t want to participate in a group activity, all they had to do was mute themselves or leave the meeting. As a result, many kids hate group work now more than ever. However, their ability to work independently has gone up significantly.

– A teacher in a middle school with 79% low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area

Students are numb. They constantly tell me that they do not feel like doing anything.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 90% low-income students in the Los Angeles area

The students seem miserable to be in school. During the pandemic, they were given free rein to simply turn off their Zoom screen and tune-out what was going on. Now that they have returned to the classroom, they seem very hesitant to complete any work. … Of course, there are a few students in each class who are absolutely excelling.

– A teacher in a high school with 21% low-income students on the Central Coast

We do not allow them to participate in group activities other than whole class discussion. After 8 months learning alone, they do not know their classmates very well, and almost all are reluctant to talk during discussions. I think the variation between most engaged and least engaged may be similar, but the number of students on either end of the spectrum has increased with fewer students in the middle.

– A teacher in a high school with 30% low-income students in the Inland Empire

The students seem unwilling to engage in any educational activity. They sit passively in the classroom trying to avoid finding ways to participate. The joy of learning has been replaced with this new, and hopefully temporary, sense of disconnectedness.

– A teacher in a high school with 21% low-income students on the Central Coast

I don’t think students stopped learning. I think they just learned different things. Our students are all supported by family or caring adults, and most have met many traditional benchmarks. I am a little concerned that social skills and kids’ emotional well-being will need addressing in the fall and districts will instead focus on academics to “make-up” for the time kids were away from traditional academics. I think that’s a mistake.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 17% low-income students on the North Coast

The academic side of it will smooth out over time. The trauma and emotional toll is much more concerning. So much has happened.

– A teacher in a high school with 85% low-income students in the Los Angeles area

Yes, this has been a hard year for my students, and we haven’t covered as much as usual. But I’m not spending time worrying about what they’ve lost academically. Most American students lost academic time this year, but the experience of this year will shape and help them in other ways down the line. I wish we would stop bemoaning their learning loss and focus on what skills they’ve gained.

– A teacher in a middle school with 90% low-income students in the Los Angeles area

Economics of the pandemic widened the divide between those who can manage a financial and child care crisis, and those who have no supports and no cushion for this disruption.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 31% low-income students on the North Coast

Academic learning loss — This varies a lot by student. If they have been able to participate and engage this year, I have seen them learn (even if not as much in a normal year). But, there are some that for whatever reason (internet, executive functioning skills, other responsibilities at home, motivation, etc.) have struggled more than I think they would have in person, and some of those are very worrying. Social and emotional disruption and loss — Super concerned about this. Lots of depression, anxiety, stress, negative self-perception if they haven’t been doing well, needing space from their families.

– A teacher in a high school with 90% low-income students in the Los Angeles area

Overall, do you think your students are doing better now than they were when most schools were closed to in-person learning and offered only distance learning?

Comments

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I do think for the children who have come back, it has helped them a lot. The children who attend in person often had very disruptive noises at home, and it was very difficult for them to focus. They’re learning a lot more now that we’re in person.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 83% low-income students in the Los Angeles area

Yes. Students enjoy the social aspects of school and many students who struggled with time management and independent work now have the structure and support they need.

– A teacher in a middle school with 39% low-income students on the Central Coast

Those on campus are happier, not that the work is getting done to a greater extent. Socially and emotionally they are thriving.

– A teacher in a middle school with 68% low-income students on the North Coast

(They are) absolutely not doing better. … We were closed for over a year and during that time several students chose not to engage in lessons. Parents did not hold their students accountable and our district did not hold the parents accountable. As a result we do have students who almost lost a year of learning.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 92% low-income students on the Central Valley

I think my virtual-only students have less support and I worry about them, but for my hybrid students coming in person there is no doubt that they are doing better now.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 28% low-income students in the Sacramento area

I think students coming to campus are doing better than before. At school, students get a clearly defined “learning space,” which is not always true at home. Additionally, teachers can now see when a student is stuck but unsure how to ask for help, and provide assistance as needed.

– A teacher in a high school with 90% low-income students in the San Diego area

I see gaps in socialization norms, more students act out and lack impulse control. It is more difficult to engage students in active and responsive academic conversations.

– A teacher in a middle school with 62% low-income students in the Northern Delta-Sierra Foothills

I actually think the students are doing worse. With online schooling, it was much easier for students to hide the fact that they were tuned out. Now, they are back, and being asked to participate which, in many ways, seems like I am insulting them. In other words, they seem offended that they are being asked to participate and take responsibility for their learning.

– A teacher in a high school with 21% low-income students on the Central Coast

I don’t think so. Socially, it might be better but not academically.

– A teacher in a high school with 54% low-income students in the Sacramento area

The Data: Survey questions about teachers’ concerns for their students

Teachers responded to a number of questions about concerns they may have for their students. They included topics specifically related to school as well as more global issues such as health and safety and family economic and social disruptions. The data below includes responses from all teachers — those whose schools have reopened and those who are still only teaching distance learning.

What is your current level of concern for your students’ …?

To note: Almost all teachers have some, a good deal, or a great deal of concern about their students’:

Comments

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Students are extremely resilient and have adjusted to coming back in person. The students I worry about are the ones who feel isolated at home and the ones whose parents have lost their jobs.

– A teacher in a middle school with 39% low-income students on the Central Coast

I’m worried about the depression I see in my students. … Families are moving away. Our county is expensive and rents are rising. Families have stresses and death. I have to figure out how to give them emotional strength.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 41% low-income students on the North Coast

It isn’t that big of deal in a wealthy neighborhood but where I teach these students went a year with inconsistent Wi-Fi, parents unable to help them with their school work, working parents who left their child alone, and these kids were not active or engaging in age appropriate conversations. It is telling. The state is worried about equity, and essentially they made it worse by not letting these kids attend school.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 70% low-income students in the Inland Empire

Even the strongest of academic students have shown signs of social and emotional disruption this year. They’ve communicated everything from finding it hard to focus online to the inability to log into class or even sleep due to stress and anxiety. And, those are the students who are willing to discuss this with me and share their feelings/concerns.

– A teacher in a high school with 36% low-income students in the San Diego area

Students’ social/emotional well-being is still my top concern. Students still feel isolated though some are starting to return. And students still report feeling concerned about pandemic-related hardships such as health of family members, financial struggles etc.

– A teacher in a high school with 66% low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area

I am concerned mainly about my students and families’ emotional and mental health. I know of a lot of families who lost their jobs and have been struggling to pay rent and make ends meet. Most of my students have had to get part-time jobs in order to support their families. School has been low in their list of priorities. I am not concerned about learning loss. I believe that there has been so much trauma this year and math can be learned later on once Covid is over and once students’ mental health and emotional needs are met.

– A teacher in a high school with 91% low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area

In terms of learning loss, I feel that many students are in this situation from the past year. I am more concerned with a huge push to “mitigate learning loss” through remediation rather than acceleration. We need to find new and innovative ways for students to learn and express their knowledge rather than remediate them for what they do not know.

– A teacher in a middle/high school with 80% low-income students in the San Jose-Monterey area

The incredible number of hours some of them have spent on a screen, much of which involved videos or other highly stimulating content, seems to be impacting their focus and ability to do more mundane tasks, especially those that involve a book or worksheet. … I am fearful it will take its toll next year when there are different demands on their time.

– A teacher in a high school with 30% low-income students in the Inland Empire

There’s been a lot of family members lost among my students. I’m more concerned about their mental health and the well-being of their families in general.

– A teacher in a middle school with 90% low-income students in the Los Angeles area

What I am most concerned about is students being able to make that transition from online to in person. For more than a year and a half students have felt secluded and not connected to school culture and so therefore it is very important for them and for the school to make the attempt to connect with students more than ever.

– A teacher in a high school with 51% low-income students in the Los Angeles area

Families who want their students to return in person have a schedule of two days of in-person instruction with a school day of 8:30 a.m.-1:15 p.m. How are working families (or families with students in multiple schools or grade levels) supposed to comply with this? Our school is no longer able to provide before and after care, where before the pandemic we had at least a third of our students enrolled in these programs. It is completely inequitable and unfair. Parents are forced to keep their students at home because they cannot comply with the schedule, and it really saddens me.
– A teacher in an elementary school with 72% low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area

The Data: Survey questions about important supports for addressing students’ needs

What do you think are the most important supports for addressing your students’ academic learning?

Comments

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To address students’ academic learning, first, we need to start by addressing their social and emotional needs. We can do this by using social emotional academic development themes, while delivering the content. It is an intentional teaching strategy to explicitly focus on themes to engage students with the content while meeting their social and emotional needs.

– A teacher in a high school with 79% low-income students in Southern California

Without real parent involvement it is difficult to change a student’s attitude toward school and therefore their availability to learn. Teachers and parents need to work together to support the student.

– A teacher in an elementary/middle school with 15% low-income students in the Los Angeles area

They need smaller class sizes to help them get more differentiated instruction to help them get confident again, fall in love with learning again, and get them closer to where we want them to be on their academic journey.

– A teacher in a high school with 66% low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area

They need in-person, hands-on developmentally appropriate learning and NOT an extreme focus on academics only.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 92% low-income students in Southern California

The assistance of a second adult in the classroom is the most important support. I am lucky because I have a Temporary Support Assistant full time, due to the presence of a student with autism. This assistant is invaluable in supporting individual students as needed.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 30% low-income students on the North Coast

Support of their mental health and access to appropriate resources to help them feel supported as humans first, and students second.

– A teacher in a high school with 48% low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area

Some of the most critical supports we have implemented include family meetings, translators, a family liaison with the school, and weekly calls to update families on their child’s progress in school.

– A teacher in a high school with 98% low-income students in the Los Angeles area

Smaller class sizes and targeted instruction. We have the opportunity to totally revamp the educational system at this time, but resistance from people afraid of change and the unwillingness to listen to the experts, TEACHERS, is hampering this process.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 39% low-income students in the Northern Delta-Sierra Foothills

School climate, school enriching curriculum, extra opportunities beyond the school day to target ELD, ELA, Math but also enrichment. Money should also be invested in teacher training directly acknowledging that kids need teachers to be people who can motivate and inspire. Schools should spend money on what parents, families want.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 93% low-income students in the San Diego area

What do you think are the most important supports for addressing your students’ physical health and social-emotional well-being?

Comments

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A nurse and health aide on each campus and a team, a case management model, to collaborate and connect families.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 88% low-income students in the Inland Empire

Administrative support to make sure kids are getting adequate opportunities for physical health and social emotional well-being with each other outside of regular class time.

– A teacher in a high school with 38% low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area

I think the most important support is staffing and having more adults available to check in on students and families, get to know them, listen to them, and provide support (including direct instruction) on social and emotional skills.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 72% low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area

We should concentrate on mental health before learning loss. Our students have gone through so much, especially my urban, low-income immigrant students.

– A teacher in a high school with 96% low-income students in the Los Angeles area

Athletics and having social-emotional activities during class.

– A teacher in a high school with 89% low-income students in the San Diego area

Mental health and counseling support should be a part of the core curriculum to the fullest extent possible. We have students that did much better during virtual but are having problems in person, because they required a transition period that they were not given.

– A teacher in an elementary/middle school with 97% low-income students in the Los Angeles area

Students need to be getting outside and being active. Teachers need time to attend to the students’ needs and not just the state’s expectations.

– A teacher in a middle school with 86% low-income students in the Inland Empire

The food that the district is providing is important, so students have access to balanced meals. We are also focusing mostly on socio-emotional learning in class right now and making learning as positive as possible.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 94% low-income students in the Los Angeles area

We need more resources for counseling and better health insurance options for low-income families.

– A teacher in a high school with 70% low-income students in the Inland Empire

We need counselors that will do more than yoga. We need time and space to help students understand how to deal with emotions in an appropriate manner. And at the same time provide a place if they need something that is not academic. Teachers try to fill all needs, but we just can’t be everything. It is a monumental task. We need more qualified staff on campus!

– A teacher in an elementary school with 67% low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area

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  1. Joanna Hanchey 2 months ago2 months ago

    Validates what we are seeing on the East Coast.