Tennessee Teachers: Focused on Students

The results of a survey conducted by the Tennessee Education Association indicate that Tennessee’s teachers are focused on and concerned about their students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here’s more from a press release:

Tennessee educators are most worried about learning loss, student wellbeing and how to engage students during school closures due to the Covid-19 outbreak, according to a statewide survey published by the Tennessee Education Association.

The survey of 319 educators across the state was conducted March 25-31 by TEA. The survey will be conducted again in coming weeks to reflect changes. 


When educators were asked “what is your greatest concern regarding the remainder the school year,” the overwhelming focus was on students. Half of all teachers cited learning loss and student wellbeing as their greatest concerns. Lost instructional opportunities, difficult home environments, food security and the absence of social and academic engagement weigh heavily on the minds of teachers, according to the survey.

“I’ve worried so much about my kids regressing but everyone is in the same situation. Parents all have different home circumstances. For the ones working, it is hard to come home and homeschool. Some just have one computer per two-plus kids in the home,” wrote one respondent. “We know the kids will possibly be behind but that’s ok. That’s my job!”

The impact of the disruption will remain long after the outbreak is controlled, and classes resume.

“Students will struggle when we return to school and they will struggle next year, especially in math classes, to make up for the large gap in knowledge created by this disruption,” wrote one respondent. “This must also be taken into account when considering test scores as a factor for next year and how they impact high-stakes decisions for students as well as teachers.”

One in five teachers expressed uncertainty as their primary concern, as well as health and safety concerns for themselves and their families moving forward. One in 10 expressed professional or student accountability as the primary concern during the closure period.


When asked “what plans does your district have regarding ongoing instruction,” more than half of educators said they were allowed to work from home to provide learning opportunities that would not count for student grades, while 36% said their school system had no current mandate on activity.

“It is clear from this survey that teachers, parents and school systems are struggling to implement strategies to continue teaching and learning. With the timing of spring breaks and the statewide school shutdown, there wasn’t much of an opportunity to plan and organize materials,” said TEA President Beth Brown. “This is going to be an ongoing process, and we ask administrators and school boards to understand that teachers want to engage their students and promote learning as much as they do. We all will be working to find the most effective means of doing so with safety and health in mind.” 

For educators who have district instruction plans, the means of communication vary. Approximately half of teachers use the phone, text, and text apps to communicate with students, one-third use email or online platforms, and one in seven use social media. 40% of teachers use two or more means of communication. Most teachers report spotty participation among students, even those in honors or AP classes. Inequity among students in home support and internet access were major teacher concerns.   

One major issue for TEA was the widespread reports of mandatory reporting to schools after the statewide closure order. The survey found that while initially there were orders to report, only a small percentage of responders indicated they had to physically go to the school building as part of their duties. 

“I am proud of our cafeteria workers and teachers who are making sure students are fed while schools are closed,” said Brown. “I am also glad to see that systems are prioritizing public health and the safety of our educators by not requiring personnel to come into a school building.”

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

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