SC education leaders discuss survey results regarding teachers’ COVID experiences

SC education leaders discuss survey results regarding teachers’ COVID experiences

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - According to a new survey released Wednesday morning by researchers at the University of South Carolina, teachers in the state said they are most concerned with the well-being of their students.

Researchers partnered with the Palmetto State Teachers Association, South Carolina Education Association, and the state Department of Education for the study. The purpose of the study was to take a look at teaching during the pandemic.

Researchers said they sent these surveys to the 47,000 public school teachers in the state. They heard back from about a quarter of those teachers. The researchers compiled responses from the 12,000 teachers and held dozens of focus-group interviews.

“Listen to the voices of teachers,” 2020 South Carolina Teacher of the Year Chanda Jefferson said. “They’re important. Their voice matters.”

In the study, one of the focus groups talked about the struggle of connecting with students.

“Many of my students’ phones were disconnected,” one of the teachers in the group said. “We even traveled to their houses to check in on them, but even if we were able to contact them, most still struggled to do the work.”

“We didn’t focus on just the academic and what others are calling the learning slide,” Jefferson added. “We’re worried about the social and emotional well being of a child.”

The study was conducted in late May and June, but nine out of 10 teachers at that time said they were returning to teach in the fall. The Palmetto State Teachers Association said that number could be different now.

Two-thirds of teachers surveyed reported they were stressed about school.

The study also focused on remote learning. Researchers said four in 10 teachers reported that their students did not have access to internet or were not comfortable using digital tools at home. Many of these issues were even more evident in poorer, rural school districts researchers said.

Teachers also reported heavily relying on each other for resources on remote learning. According to the surveys, many of them said they are confident coming into the fall that they’ll have a much better plan.

UofSC Research Professor Barnett Berry called these findings very important.

“Most likely schools are never going to return to the exact same way they once were,” he said. “We have a whole bunch of teachers who have a bunch of insight to share. The good news -- they want to be at the table.”

Berry shared five policy recommendations that could help teachers right now. Those are:

  • Eliminate the technology divide
  • Accelerate the development of a Learning Management System
  • Invest in professional learning networks for and by teachers
  • Rethink the roles of teachers as leaders
  • Fund and support cross-sector collaboration to serve the whole child

See the full results of the survey below:

This story will be updated.

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