Teachers Share Back-to-School Challenges in New DonorsChoose Report

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Survey of 1,000 teachers: 35% will start year online; 81% expect school to be closed at some point; 66% feel it’s unsafe to return to classrooms; greatest needs are PPE and instructional technology

In a new survey from DonorsChoose, 42% of teachers indicated they'd be teaching in both online and in-person settings this fall, while 35% will be fully remote, and 8% will be fully in-person.

While there aren’t yet any easy answers, it’s clear that teachers have concerns about the safety of in-person instruction, the efficacy of online learning, and the outsized impact the pandemic will have on our most vulnerable students.

Teachers are facing unprecedented challenges as school resumes this fall, and a new report from education nonprofit DonorsChoose reveals their experiences, feelings, and expectations on how COVID-19 will impact the new school year.

DonorsChoose surveyed 1,057 U.S. public school teachers in early August, finding that 42% of teachers were planning for a “blended” start to the school year, with a mix of both online and in-classroom instruction; 35% will begin the year fully remote, and 8% will be in the classroom full-time. However, 81% of teachers expect that, at some point this year, their school will be forced to close and move fully online. While two-thirds of teachers feel somewhat or very unsafe returning to the classroom, only 7% feel that online learning is very effective.

Teachers are also concerned about how the pandemic will widen the education equity gap. Last spring, teachers in low-income communities experienced lower rates of student engagement in online learning than teachers from wealthier communities; they also were more likely than teachers in high-income communities to report that most or all of their students struggled with lack of reliable internet access and difficulty using online tools.

“Teachers are the professionals and essential workers we most need to hear from as our nation grapples with the return to school this fall,” said Charles Best, founder of DonorsChoose. “They know what their students need, they’re resilient and innovative, and they need our support, gratitude, and patience in navigating a school year that will be unlike any other. While there aren’t yet any easy answers, it’s clear that teachers have concerns about the safety of in-person instruction, the efficacy of online learning, and the outsized impact the pandemic will have on our most vulnerable students.”

Other findings of the report include:

  • Nearly half (46%) of teachers would prefer to wait to return to school until infection rates reach safe levels established by public health officials, while 29% suggest waiting until an effective treatment or vaccine is available. Meanwhile, 4% feel safe returning to the classroom now, and 16% expect their school to institute changes that would make them feel safe.
  • Cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) were the most commonly named resources teachers need for in-person instruction, while instructional technology was the most commonly reported teacher need for online learning.
  • Half (52%) of teachers reported feeling more prepared to conduct online learning than they did last spring.
  • Nearly all teachers reported feeling anxious, uncertain, overwhelmed, and nervous as they prepared for the new school year, but 62% also felt hopeful, and half of teacher respondents felt somewhat or very excited, eager, and optimistic.
  • Requiring masks, providing hand sanitizer, and prohibiting shared use of school supplies were the most commonly reported measures schools are taking to make in-school instruction safer for students and teachers.

Since the beginning of July, donors have already funded over 45,000 projects to help teachers this fall, whether they plan to teach online or in the classroom. Over the summer, DonorsChoose expanded site features to offer flexible shipping options for public school teachers working remotely, so that they can receive critical learning supplies at home if their schools are closed. Currently, teachers have shared nearly 50,000 requests in need of support on the nonprofit website.

To read the full report from DonorsChoose, visit http://www.donorschoose.org/back-to-learning-report.

DonorsChoose is the leading way to give to public schools. Since 2000, more than 4.5 million people and partners have contributed $1 billion to support 1.7 million teacher requests for learning resources and experiences. As the most trusted crowdfunding platform for teachers, donors, and district administrators alike, DonorsChoose vets each request, ships the funded resources directly to the teacher, and provides thank yous and reporting to donors and school leaders. Charity Navigator and GuideStar have awarded DonorsChoose, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, their highest ratings for transparency and accountability. For more information, visit http://www.donorschoose.org.

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