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Sustaining a Sense of Success: The Importance of Teacher Working Conditions

With teachers suddenly thrust into remote learning last spring, what impact did that have on their sense of success and their students’ engagement? Researchers Matthew Kraft of Brown University and FutureEd, Nicole Simon of CUNY, and Melissa Arnold Lyon of Brown University explored the work-from-home conditions during COVID-19 in a new working paperSustaining a Sense of Success: The Importance of Teacher Working Conditions During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The researchers  compare survey results from the fall and spring of the 2019 and 2020 school year for over 7,800 teachers across 10 districts and five charter school networks. 

The authors found a number of troubling trends, providing additional evidence that remote learning only magnifies existing inequities. Learning opportunities have been significantly limited for students from low-income and Black communities. Teachers also reported that, on average, only 60 percent of their students were engaged during remote classes. Teachers in schools with concentrated poverty and a majority of Black students also reported that their students did not have adequate access to technology, making it even harder for them to engage in class.

Two in five teachers reported that care-taking responsibilities made teaching more difficult; 16 percent reported they were unable to balance their at-home responsibilities with work, and more experienced teachers struggled more with technology. Kraft and his co-authors also found that 53 percent of teachers who completed the spring survey reported that their sense of success declined. More supportive working conditions--including better communications, targeted professional development and meaningful collaboration--seemed to make a difference.

The researchers concluded that policymakers must take decisive action to ensure that teachers and schools are in a position to support students’ learning. That can include creating a supportive culture for teachers and ensuring that students have access to technology and that teachers’ working conditions are conducive to their success.

By Nima Rahimi

Photo courtesy of Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action