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Indiana Teachers Call Out Improvements to District Re-Entry Plans

December 10, 2020
In a New Teach Plus Report, Teachers Recommend Access to More Resources, Support for Mental Health Needs, Implementing Innovations to Meet Student Needs 

Indianapolis, IN—Schools and districts across Indiana are continuing to navigate the demands of virtual, hybrid, and in-person teaching and learning as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in real time. In a new report, “Improving As We Go: Learning from Indiana District Reentry Plans,” Teach Plus Indiana presents feedback from Hoosier educators on the greatest challenges facing them and their students and on ways school, district, and state leaders can improve their response to the crisis. The teachers’ recommendations fall within three key areas: adequate resources to address the immediate and long-term needs exacerbated by COVID-19; mental health support for educators; and capturing and implementing innovative ideas and best practices to better meet student needs.

"As we face the ongoing pandemic, we must continue to listen to educators and provide them with the time and resources they need to implement best practices around teaching and learning,” said Rachel Hathaway, Teach Plus Indiana Executive Director. “We also mustn’t lose sight of the opportunity to leverage educators’ learnings and innovative solutions to reimagine the profession and create a more equitable education system for all of Indiana’s students.” 

Findings

  1. The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the traditional role of a teacher, broadening the expectations to include skills and competencies from social emotional learning to technical support and resulting in time and capacity shortages and burnout among educators. 
  2. The abrupt transition to a virtual learning environment has reaffirmed teachers’ essential roles as connectors who support students and families and engage the wider school community.
  3. Schools are struggling to navigate and formally adjust to the informally expanded roles of teachers and are relying on teachers’ creativity and innovation to help meet the moment.

Recommendations

  1. School and district leaders should provide teachers with adequate resources and create time in their regular schedules for professional development that addresses both the immediate and long-term needs driven by COVID-19. 
  2. District and state leaders should support teachers’ mental health by providing better access and more financial support for educators wanting to connect to mental healthcare professionals.
  3. School and district leaders should take the opportunity to reimagine school, putting in place a teacher task force in schools and districts to brainstorm, vet, and implement innovative ideas and capture best practices and lessons learned in order to better meet students’ needs.

Teach Plus worked with Indiana educators to analyze 20 district reentry plans from across the state and held focus groups to get teachers’ perspectives on teaching and learning, student and teacher mental health, and social and emotional learning resources in schools, to better understand how schools can emerge stronger from this crisis. In the focus groups, teachers underscored that their proximity to students and families during the pandemic and the additional responsibilities they’ve taken on during the crisis have given them invaluable insights into what’s needed to build a strong, equitable education system in the new normal.  

Teachers have seen close-up the pervasive incidents of trauma amongst their students, including hunger, abuse, and isolation. They have had to become tech experts, training students and their families in an effort to make learning accessible for all. Teachers have also expanded their roles as facilitators of students’ agency as learners and as creators of innovative solutions.

Teach Plus urges local and state leaders to leverage teacher voice and develop plans that are informed by the experiences of educators, students, and families. As Greg Sparks, Teach Plus Indiana Policy Fellow and teacher at Christel House Emmerich Manual High School in Indianapolis, said: “Today, old solutions are no longer applicable. The COVID experience calls for utilizing teacher voice, a focus on student and staff culture, and an implementation of social emotional learning to advance equity and student engagement.”

About Teach Plus
The mission of Teach Plus is to empower excellent, experienced teachers to take leadership over key policy and practice issues that affect their students’ success.  Since 2009, Teach Plus has trained thousands of teacher leaders across the country who are driving policy changes and improving the instructional practices of teachers to create an education system driven by equity, access, and excellence for all students.  teachplus.org