As various local institutions attempt to return to pre-COVID-19 activity levels, teachers too are mulling when, and even whether, to reenter the classroom. Though many have embraced on-campus safety protocols and taken vaccinations, there remains the question of the pandemic’s impact on student learning.
For Gina Abrams, the pandemic placed teachers in a tough position, as many were still expected to successfully provide grade-level instruction to students with significant pandemic-related learning gaps. She said administrators often placed the onus on her to not only articulate complicated concepts to students, but compete with forces at home that impeded their progress.
“It was hard for the students to access that material but they were still tested with the same type of benchmarks. Why would you expect them to be at a [certain] level if they didn’t finish kindergarten?” said Abrams, a first grade D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) teacher.
“I don’t know how the kids will make up all that loss. Summer school won’t solve it. Maybe being in person might help, but [DCPS] dropped the ball when they made us start the [grade-level] curriculum, not what students missed.”
As shown in a survey conducted by the D.C. State Board of Education, several teachers share Abrams’ sentiments.
The survey, released in March, showed that nearly half of the teachers in the District’s public and public charter sectors considered leaving the profession because of difficulties encountered during the pandemic.
Two out of three teachers said they couldn’t cover the same amount of content during virtual learning as had been the case during in-person instruction. More than three out of four teachers indicated that students had internet that was too slow for virtual learning, while three out of five recounted students experiencing computer issues.
The survey also highlighted inequities among students in Wards 7 and 8 and concerns among nearly seven out of 10 teachers about being unable to meet their students’ increasingly strong socio-emotional needs.
In response to the survey, DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee highlighted the launch of Rigorous Instruction Supports Equity, a federally funded program through which teachers at 43 schools receive equity-centered professional development and performance-based incentive awards.
As teachers increasingly make the return to campuses across the District, some like Andrew Green said they look forward to the opportunity to effectively instruct their students. Given the hurdles faced while conducting virtual learning, Green pondered why District officials couldn’t make these arrangements earlier.
“Every part of the school day is affected by inequities,” he added.