With the Toughest School Year Behind Them, Teachers Face Realities of Learning Loss

Coming off the toughest school year ever – teachers are rallying to face the realities of student learning loss in the coming school year.

And tech companies have a big opportunity to be a part of the turn-around for students.

The key components of overall identity for our educators include being a teacher (96%) and the school where they work (81%) – and 70% of them say the 2020-2021 school year was their most challenging year of teaching. Not feeling prepared (40%), mixed with learning setbacks (72%) and learning loss for students (79%), sets the stage for the upcoming school year for our 3M+ teachers representing over $700B in school spending and billions in personal expenditures*.

So, how did teachers get through this year, and what is in store for this coming school year?

Our recent 2021 Teacher survey, conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Agile Education Marketing and SheerID, gives significant insights and direction on effectively addressing this market in the shadow of the pandemic and uncertainty. The survey was comprised of 900+ teachers who teach grades K-12 and live in the United States.

Professional support, especially from fellow teachers, helped teachers get through this past school year – 85% of teachers cite support from colleagues, and 73% cite family and friends. Parents (39%), the district administration (28%), and the local community (15%) seem to provide the least support for teachers last year.

True to form, teachers support teachers.

They understand each others day-to-day lives and the current challenges that are taking place in K-12 education. We can see that there needs to be more substantial support from parents, administrators, and local communities. I have always found this to be the case. However, there is always room for growth and change. Parents, teachers, and administrators should be one big, giant team, especially when current learning models are ever-changing. – EDUCATOR PERSPECTIVE, Meredith Biesinger, M.Ed.

Of note for the vendor community – 72% of teachers cite support from technology software helping them get through the 2020-2021 year, and nearly 60% cite technology hardware (58%). These numbers indicate that education companies delivered for schools and teachers. So, how does the future look for these relationships?

Looking ahead to this school year

Looking ahead to this school year, every student with their own device was overwhelmingly helpful (84%) and is expected to be used (82%). Additionally, online learning applications for supplemental learning proved to be very beneficial too (56%).

An opportunity for vendors to do better is within digital textbooks and online access to core curriculum. Less than three in ten teachers who used them say online learning platforms with traditional curriculum (29%) and digital textbooks (27%) were among the most helpful for students to continue to learn either in person or at home. Yet, more than two in five teachers who used them anticipate using digital textbooks (48%) and online learning platforms with traditional curriculum (44%) for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year for in-person students. Why? Online learning platforms are highly beneficial if they can be navigated easily by all parties involved: teachers, students, and parents.

With the concern of learning loss at the forefront of every educators mind, student engagement has become more crucial than ever. An online learning platform with a student engagement curriculum and activities is greatly needed and much desired. The remote learning method of click, read, and reply” is ineffective, speaking volumes in the current data.

Tools not transitioning to the 2021-2022 classroom appear to be Wi-Fi hotspots and video meeting/chat services. Just around two in five (42%) teachers anticipate using technology products, such as video chat services, cameras and microphones, in the upcoming school year for in person students – only 27% anticipate using Wi-Fi hotspots for those who don’t have internet access at home. However, with virtual learning and hybrid models already taking place for several schools in session, these tools are still being utilized. K-12 education now has 18 months of virtual learning under its belt. Through trial and error, several educators and school districts in my area have learned how to navigate internet connections and online meeting resources. With the anticipation of returning to the physical classroom for the 2021-2022 school year, this data makes sense. – EDUCATOR PERSPECTIVE, Meredith Biesinger, M.Ed.

Top of mind for teachers going into this school year

Learning loss is top of mind, and thankfully 86% of teachers who say their school is doing something to address this loss for students. The methods and tools are varied, primarily through summer school (76%), with only around 30% evaluating and/or adjusting curriculum (36%), providing tutoring (32%), or offering access to online curriculum tools and applications (31%). And, according to the survey, less than half of teachers will purchase or recommend schools purchase supplemental online tools to address learning loss (47%).

While many teachers say they have some input in purchasing decisions for materials and supplies (81%), the survey shows less than half say they have some input regarding technology purchase decisions (47%). Since technology is typically a wider-based decision, teachers say the school district’s IT Director/CTO (66%) and principal (60%) typically decide on technology purchases.

With each K-12 school district receiving CARES funding from the federal government during the height of the pandemic, school leaders had an opportunity to purchase additional technology tools and resources. The data may reflect a need for supplemental solutions within their recent purchases instead of more products. The survey shows that teachers appreciate a brand that provides solutions for the unique challenges they currently face. – EDUCATOR PERSPECTIVE, Meredith Biesinger, M.Ed.

The 2021 Teacher survey reveals dedicated educators coming off a challenging year and entering a new school year feeling unprepared. With learning loss on the minds of over 70% of teachers, education companies have an opportunity to support their current users in getting more out of their existing investments in classroom technology. With nearly every student having their own device now, showing teachers how to effectively use the tools that are already available to them would be a massive win for everyone.

This survey was conducted online by the Harris Poll on behalf of Agile Education Marketing and SheerID from June 16 to August 2, 2021, among 924 K-12 teachers. A random sample of teachers was invited to participate by email from Agile’s database of K-12 teachers as well as through social media. Results are not weighted and are therefore the only representative of the individuals who completed the survey.
*References the Agile Education Marketing k-12 database and the Department of Education Statistics. 
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