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The pandemic years have taken dramatic toll on the nations’ public schools, according to data from the Institute of Educational Sciencesaffecting staff, student behavior, attendance, nutrition and mental health.
“There has been a lot of disruption in providing quality education to students, whether it is access to a teacher, a live teacher or the chaotic and vacillating mode of learning, and he varied by race and ethnicityCommissioner Peggy Carr of the National Center for Education Statistics, an arm of the institute. “It’s an important way to understand the impact of the pandemic on our country.”
The School Pulse Panel, a series of surveys from January 2022 to May 2022 measuring the impact of COVID-19 on public education. The surveys were sent to 800 to 850 public schools, to which principals, administrators, superintendents and staff responded. Here are some takeaways from the IES School Pulse Panel:
1. COVID-19 has had a negative impact on student development
A May 2022 survey found that more than 80% of public schools reported “delayed behavioral and socio-emotional development” in their students due to the COVID-19 pandemic”, a 56% increase in “disruptions in the classroom due to student misbehaviour” and a 49% increase in “ruckus outside the classroom. All schools surveyed reported a 55% increase in “student delays”. for all public schools. The use of cell phones, computers or other electronic devices when not permitted in all schools increased by 42%.
2. Chronic teacher and student absenteeism has increased
Student and teacher absenteeism in the 2021-2022 school year has increased compared to school years before the COVID-19 pandemic. In the 2021-22 school year, 61% of public schools also report that it is “much more difficult” to find substitute teachers; and that
- 74% said they have “administrators who cover the courses”.
- 71% said they had “non-teaching staff to cover the lessons”.
- 68% said that “other teachers cover the lessons during their preparation periods”.
- 51% said “separate sections and classes…combined in one room”.
Carr said she heard from colleagues in school districts in Boston and Florida that due to staffing shortages, superintendents had to go back to classrooms to teach “because it was so bad. I had heard that, but seeing it in a nationally representative sample of schools that prevails is sobering.
Carr also said COVID quarantines are a factor in student absenteeism. “It is normal for students to go out because of quarantine, so when we talk about student absenteeism, it is not only because a student has just left, it is sometimes that he has been put in quarantine because of COVID,” she said. “It’s part of the new normal.”
3. There is a greater need for mental health services among students and staff.
70% of public schools reported that “the percentage of students who have sought mental health services has increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.” 34% of public school students seeking mental health services more than others were “economically disadvantaged students.” The second highest percentage (25%) of public schools that sought mental health services more than others were students with special needs (25%)
“Teachers are going through a tough time…so that’s what this data shows,” Carr said. 29% of public schools reported that “the extent to which staff have requested mental health services at school since the onset of COVID-19” has increased. “They are overwhelmed, they don’t have the staff to help them, the teachers quit. They have to teach classes that they have never taught before. All of these things result in an unhealthy working environment for teachers,” she said.
4. Public schools face barriers to providing students with the mental health services they need.
Most public schools (61%) said a limitation was “insufficient coverage of professional mental health staff to manage the workload”, 57% of schools said it was a “inadequate access to licensed mental health professionals” and 48% said “insufficient funding”.
“A licensed professional is expensive,” Carr said. “Too few professionals are available in these schools to actually provide these services and insufficient access to licensed professionals who can truly provide the quality level of services they need.”
5. Schools have changed their calendars to support students and staff
Almost a third of schools – 28% – surveyed said they had made changes to their “daily or annual school calendar to mitigate potential mental health issues for students and staff”. Beginning of July, a california law came into effect for secondary and intermediate classes to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. New JerseyLawmakers in New York and Massachusetts have had similar discussions about the possibility of delaying school start times.
6. Most schools are in person
In May 2022, most schools – 99% – were offering full-time in-person instruction, a slight increase from January when it was 97%, the survey found. In January, 40% of all public schools also offered a full-time distance option, which fell to 34% in February, 33% in March, April and May, according to the survey.
7. School breakfast and meal programs have encountered difficulties.
Nearly 40% of schools that run USDA school lunch and breakfast programs “reported difficulty getting enough food, beverages, and/or lunch service supplies.” The top three most reported reasons for these challenges were “limited product availability”, “shipping delays”, “orders arriving with missing items, reduced quantities or product substitutions”.
“I think we continue to be surprised by the range of experiences schools have to deal with in the aftermath of COVID. It hasn’t calmed down,” Carr said. “It’s not over yet, that’s what I believe this data says.”