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Teachers Confident Amid Uncertainty
Gallup Blog

Teachers Confident Amid Uncertainty

by Valerie J. Calderon and Margaret Carlson
Teachers Confident Amid Uncertainty

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. school leaders are wrestling with return-to-learn plans that are tailored to meet the educational and health needs of their communities. With industries across the U.S. implementing changes to address workplace health concerns, schools have unique challenges as they balance the vital learning needs of students with the safety of teachers, students and their families, all of whom come from diverse demographic backgrounds.

Findings from a NewSchools Venture Fund/Gallup survey finds that most teachers say it was somewhat (50%) or very hard (32%) to teach students at home rather than at school, and they were far more likely to say it was very hard (32%) versus very easy (4%). Teachers across grade levels have similar ratings of the experience.

U.S. Teachers' Reflection on Spring 2020
How easy or hard was it for you to teach students at home instead of at school in the spring of 2020?
Very hard 32%
Somewhat hard 50%
Somewhat easy 14%
Very easy 4%
NewSchools Venture Fund/Gallup, Jul 16-23, 2020

Gallup's COVID-19 tracking poll data found in June that 56% of U.S. parents of school-age children said remote learning had been very difficult or difficult. The NewSchools/Gallup survey conducted in July further fleshed out these data by examining the degree of difficulty by grade level.

Majorities of parents of public-school students said distance learning was very (21%) or somewhat hard (42%). Ease of distance learning increased as students got older. 73% of parents of elementary school children say distance learning was very or somewhat hard, followed by 61% of middle school parents and 49% of high school parents.

Parents of high school students were evenly split on whether distance learning was hard (49%) or easy (51%). This may be because older students have more ability to independently navigate online learning and digital tools than younger students.

Parents' Reflection on Spring 2020
How easy or hard easy it for you to have your [XX] grade child do school at home instead of at school in the spring of 2020?
Very hard Somewhat hard Somewhat easy Very easy
% % % %
All parents* 21 41 26 12
Elementary (PreK-5) 31 42 20 7
Middle School (6th-8th) 11 50 26 12
High School (9th-12th) 15 34 34 17
*Includes parents whose children participated in distance learning in Spring 2020.
NewSchools Venture Fund/Gallup, Jul 22-Aug 5, 2020

Teaching and Learning Situations Uncertain

Many school districts pushed decisions about their learning plans to late summer, and as of July, many teachers expressed uncertainty about what the upcoming school year would look like. The plurality of public-school teachers (44%) said they did not know what their schools' teaching and learning situation would be this fall. Seventeen percent said their school would be full-time, in-person, 18% reported part-time, in-person with some distance learning, and 13% said their school would be fully remote.

Public School Teachers' Fall School Arrangement
In the fall, will your school have...
Full-time, in-person school 17%
Part-time at school with some distance learning 18%
Full-time distance learning 13%
Another arrangement 8%
Don't know 44%
NewSchools Venture Fund/Gallup, Jul 16-23, 2020

Since this study was conducted, many school districts have announced they will begin school fully remote for at least some period of time. Still others have altered their plans with more complex arrangements that call for hybrid learning scenarios and staggered attendance models.

Amid Uncertainty, Majority of Teachers Confident

A majority of public-school teachers are confident (35%) or very confident (21%) they can successfully teach students this fall, and an additional 33% are somewhat confident. Teachers with more than 10 years of teaching experience are more likely to be very confident or confident than those with 10 or fewer years of experience (56% vs. 47%, respectively).

Teachers' Confidence in Fall 2020
Compared to prior school years, how confident do you feel about your ability to successfully teach students in the fall of 2020?
Very confident/confident Somewhat confident Not too confident/Not at all confident
% % %
Teachers (PK-12th grade) 56 33 12
NewSchools Venture Fund/Gallup Jul 16-23, 2020

While the majority of teachers express confidence in teaching this fall, parents of public-school students are less sure about the quality of education their children will receive. Twenty-nine percent of parents are confident (19%) or very confident (10%) in the ability of their child's school to provide high-quality education for students this fall.

Parents' Confidence in Fall 2020
Compared to prior school years, how confident do you feel about the ability of your child's school to provide high-quality education for students in the fall of 2020?
Very confident/confident Somewhat confident Not too confident/Not at all confident
% % %
Parents (PK-12th grade) 29 36 34
NewSchools Venture Fund/Gallup, Jul 22-Aug 5, 2020

Nearly half (49%) of students in grades 6 through 12 are confident in their ability to learn in the fall of 2020, including 17% who are very confident. Two in 10 are not too confident (15%) or not at all confident (5%).

Students' Confidence in Fall 2020
Compared to prior school years, how confident do you feel about your ability to learn in the fall of 2020?
Very confident/confident Somewhat confident Not too confident/Not at all confident
% % %
Students (6th-12th grade) 49 32 20
NewSchools Venture Fund/Gallup, Jul 22-Aug 5, 2020

"I'm encouraged by the confidence students and teachers have around the coming school year despite challenging experiences last spring," said Tonika Cheek Clayton, Managing Partner of NewSchools' Ed Tech team. "As a parent of three children, I also understand and empathize with the parent sentiment. I see an opportunity for schools to restore parent confidence by creatively and flexibly supporting families while addressing the inequities we saw play out at the end of last year."

Bottom Line

While a majority of teachers are confident in their ability to teach this fall, many parents are unsure about the quality of education their child will receive.

Meanwhile, as local and national media attention turns to school districts' re-opening plans, Americans' confidence in U.S. public schools has spiked with 41% expressing "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence, up from 29% in a pre-pandemic measure last year.

Approaches to teaching and learning will continue to shift and evolve as information and understanding emerges about the virus, and access to a vaccine becomes more assured. Parents and teachers will be striving to keep students engaged and connected, and they will be working to find better tools and methods that inspire growth and learning. School leaders can seize the opportunity to implement lessons learned in spring 2020, as they have more information that can support their efforts to be responsive to families' needs.

Additional results from this study will be released Aug. 27, 2020. Join Gallup and NewSchools Venture Fund as we explore Digital Tools and Equity Amid the Pandemic: Teacher, Parent and Student Perspectives.

Analysis for this story was conducted by Steve Crabtree, John Reimnitz and Jessica Harlan.

Editor's Note: On August 20, 2020, this article was updated to reflect the correct fielding dates for the surveys of teachers, as well as that of parents and students.


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