June 12, 2020
BOSTON, MA—In a new survey, Teach Plus Massachusetts Policy Fellows present feedback from teachers across the Commonwealth about their experiences during the COVID-19 remote learning environment. In the survey, Teach Plus asked a range of questions about state and district guidance, student and teacher expectations, their ability to engage with students and families, and their recommendations for moving forward. The survey’s findings indicate that teachers were supportive of state and district initial and follow-up guidance and educators are employing many tools and strategies to teach and engage students. Months of remote learning, however, are taking a toll on teachers, students, and families. Teach Plus Massachusetts aims for the findings to inform district planning as schools prepare to open in the fall.
“The results of our survey provide Commissioner Riley, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and other state and local education stakeholders with direct feedback from frontline educators regarding their current successes and struggles with remote learning. We hope that these results are helpful and will inform their decisions about what teachers need put in place to be successful as we move forward through the summer and into the new school year,” said Paul Toner, Teach Plus Senior Director for National Policy and Partnerships and the Northeast Region.
- Teachers generally agree with the initial decisions DESE made regarding its guidance for remote learning and MCAS Competency Determination alternative pathway. There is, however, a division in opinion among teachers regarding how much to prioritize social emotional well-being and how much to emphasize academic learning.
- Teachers overwhelmingly agree that they understand what is expected of them and that their district and school leaders expectations of them are “about right.” Just over half of teachers believe they have been provided with the necessary tools and resources to meet these expectations.
- The majority of teachers report being able to communicate with more than half of their students and families but a significant number of educators report being unable to connect due to a number of challenges, including both technology and non-technology related issues.
- An overwhelming majority of teachers report the current remote learning situation is taking a toll on their own social and emotional well being.
- Teachers are using a variety of instructional strategies, tools, and technology, however, only a slight majority of teachers believe that they are able to meaningfully engage students through remote learning and cited many barriers to effectively reaching vulnerable populations.
- Teachers also report a number of challenges and barriers to learning that their students are experiencing beyond just concerns about technology.
Recommendations for Moving Forward:
- Safety measures and protocols to protect the health of students, staff and families.
- Clarity, consistency, and communication regarding expectations for teachers, students, and families with more decisive guidance from the commissioner, DESE, and districts.
- Social emotional learning support for students and self care for adults.
- Internet connectivity and technology support for all―teachers included.
- Supports for quality teaching and learning in COVID-19 environment
- a. Professional development
- b. Identifying and access to high quality online curriculum, materials, technology and resources
Teachers emphasized that they want a return to face-to-face interaction with their students and fellow teachers. At the heart of teaching are the relationships developed with students, families, and colleagues. Teachers also want to make sure that lessons learned from this period are captured. As schools move toward reopening, teachers suggested using the learning during the pandemic as an opportunity to reimagine what schooling can be rather than trying to go back to “normal.” “Normal” was not working for all students. The pandemic has only further exposed the enormous disparities in our system.
Kayla Scholl, Teach Plus Policy Fellow from Everett Public Schools said: “We need solutions-oriented teacher voices at the table while important decisions are being made regarding the health and safety of staff and students as schools reopen in the fall. As educators, we know what is working and where we need support and resources. I hope that state and local leaders will read this report and consider the insights and recommendations of classroom teachers who are closest to students.”
Teach Plus Massachusetts polled its network of teachers regarding their experience with remote learning and student and family engagement during the COVID-19 school closures between May 4-22, 2020. The survey was open to all Massachusetts teachers in district and charter schools. Teach Plus received 1,398 responses from educators from 167 school districts and charter schools from across Massachusetts.
About Teach Plus
Teach Plus is dedicated to the mission of empowering excellent, experienced, and diverse teachers to take leadership over key policy and practice issues that advance equity, opportunity, and student 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