The Study In early June 2020, in collaboration with The South Carolina Education Association, the Palmetto State Teachers Association, and the SC Department of Education, a University of South Carolina research team surveyed every South Carolina teacher. Within a week over 12,000 responded (~25% of the state’s teaching workforce). During the last week of June, we conducted in-depth focus group interviews with a group of 75 teachers from across the state who varied in teaching experience, high versus low poverty, and urban and rural contexts. The Bottom Line During the pandemic South Carolina’s teachers took on new roles and tasks to reach and teach their students. They faced many barriers, and those that taught the state’s most vulnerable students had more obstacles to overcome. Without sufficient supports, many teachers struggled. Others were able to find innovations with potential to transform teaching and learning — and are eager to work with policymakers to do so.
1. Teachers’ hold a deep commitment to students and their profession.
2. Teachers’ stress focused first on their students, and then the adjustments to remote teaching.
3. Teachers faced significant barriers to reaching and teaching students — lack of internet access, parents confounded by circumstances and who were difficult to engage, and inconsistent communications.
4. Teachers struggled with many of the new demands in teaching and learning, but also found new ways to collaborate with their colleagues.
5. Teachers faced many challenges but they also discovered innovations in parent and family engagement, student-centered learning, curriculum, and teacher leadership.
Seven Important Facts
1. Over 9 in 10 teachers, who responded to our survey in early June, wanted to return to teaching in the fall.
2. Over 50 percent of teachers reported they adjusted to remote teaching; although 44% indicated they had not or only somewhat adjusted.
3. About one-half of the teachers reported they interacted with their students almost every day — and another 42% were able to do so weekly;
4. Over 4 in 10 teachers reported that their students did NOT have access to internet or were comfortable using digital tools at home.
5. Teachers were most concerned about the well-being of their students — both their social emotional and academic, followed by the safety of their own safety in the return to schooling.
6. Teachers relied heavily on emails and online platforms adopted by their districts to deliver instruction during the school closures; and paper packets were deemed least effective.
7. Over 4 in 5 teachers turned to each other for resources they needed for remote teaching; they relied on district and schools’ resources and people as well, but not nearly as much as themselves.