Data Speaks Louder Than Words

By  Meredith Biesinger

In a recent survey conducted by Harris Poll, on behalf of Agile Education Marketing and Sheer ID, a random sample of K-12 teachers were invited to respond to relevant questions about the 2020-2021 school year. It should come as no surprise that across the board, the 2020-2021 school year was the most challenging year of teaching on record.

In addition to last year being the most difficult of any K-12 academic year, teachers are worried and fearful of what this current school year might bring. It’s only the end of August, and we’re already seeing schools close and going back to virtual learning or a hybrid model due to Covid-19 exposure and sickness.

Over seventy percent of teachers are concerned about student learning loss, and rightfully so, as consistency is a crucial component to student retention. Consistency has been challenging in K-12 education over the last 18 months, it’s hard to predict what might happen next, and educators are doing their best to plan, prepare, and keep their students on track.

Teachers support teachers. They understand what one another is going through, and they are quick to offer support; this is why 85% of teachers said most of their support came from other educators. School administrators, family, and friends have also been a positive support system for teachers this year, while local and community support and district administration support is lacking.

Interestingly enough, the survey shows that although many teachers were teaching remotely last year, they spent more money out of their own pockets for supplies than in years past, with an average of $368 and 35% spending $500 or more.

Technology has played a crucial role, more than ever before. 100% of teachers stated their school used a wide variety of technology last year. With various tools, resources, and online programs, teachers anticipate less technology use and plan to return to the physical classroom. However, with the Delta variant already disrupting K-12 school plans, likely, online learning platforms, digital textbooks, and video conferencing are here to stay for a while longer.

Vendors have an opportunity to reach out to educators and provide additional knowledge or training on how to utilize best the technology and programs they have already purchased. Most schools districts purchased a wide variety of tech-ed resources over the past year and a half. It would benefit everyone if teachers knew how to confidently use every tool already at their disposal.

While teachers have a great deal of input regarding classroom supplies (81%), they don’t have much input when it comes to technology. These decisions tend to be done at the district level by an IT Director and district level administration.

Students having or being issued their own devices has been extremely helpful (82%) but not helpful enough to combat learning loss. While many schools offered summer school, only one-third are adjusting the curriculum or providing additional tutoring. Online learning programs have an excellent opportunity to offer supplemental resources that provide learning intervention within their core programs.

Most teachers (96%) believe that their profession and the school they work at are a large part of their identity. No matter how much they love teaching, after this past school year, teachers are tired, and they are concerned about the future. Many of them plan to take an extended vacation of a week or more (61%). The data shows that they primarily base their purchasing on online reviews and online searches. Also, if teachers learn of a discount, almost all of them (98%) will forward that deal to a colleague, especially if it’s classroom supplies, restaurants, electronics, or travel-related.

Talk with a teacher, and you’ll learn of their challenges. However, this data speaks louder than words when it comes to the obstacles K-12 teachers are facing.

Here are some key takeaways from the survey:

*Teachers have had a very challenging year.

*Teachers are concerned about this upcoming school year.

*Learning loss is at the forefront of their concerns.

*Intervention needs to be built into online learning to combat learning loss.

*Teachers are always shopping for and appreciative of discounts.

Perhaps the main takeaway is that teachers need and appreciate a wide variety of support during a time of great uncertainty.

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