Ep. 233: Monthly Tracker Results – December 2020 - EdChoice

Ep. 233: Monthly Tracker Results – December 2020

January 12, 2021

In this episode, we share key takeaways from our December 2020 wave of polling as reported on our EdChoice Public Opinion Tracker. For more from the full report, visit edchoice.morningconsultintelligence.com.

Mike McShane: Hello, and welcome back to another edition of EdChoice Chats. This is Mike McShane, director of national research at EdChoice. I am joined on the line today by my colleagues, Jen Wagner and Paul DiPerna. And we are talking polling. We had our most recent iteration of our Public Opinion Tracker just released earlier this month, where we had both our general population survey. So, for those of you that somehow have come across this podcast but have not come across our earlier conversations related to this, every month—in partnership with Morning Consult—we poll a nationally representative sample of Americans about education issues. We also poll a nationally representative sample of teachers every quarter. And December happened to be where the stars aligned, where we both polled the nation, and we polled the nation teachers. So, Jen, Paul and I will be discussing today the results of both of these polls.

So, I will say here at the outset, we are not going to be able to cover everything that showed up in these polls. We could talk for hours about it, and while I think we would certainly enjoy that conversation, it’s not clear that anyone else would. I don’t know if that necessarily should stop us, but we’re going to. So, we’re going to start by talking about the general population survey. We’ll start with teachers, but we’ll obviously always direct you to our website to get the full download of everything. As a reminder, we also publish all of the questionnaire questions, as well as the crosstabs, so if you’re interested in drilling down to particular demographic groups or others to understand how they answer these questions, all of that stuff is available. For those of you that are listening that are researchers, or if you’re professors who have graduate students or undergraduates, there is a wealth of data that you all could use to do any number of interesting analyses. And it is right for the taking. We, in fact, encourage you and hope that you do that.

But getting all of that out of the way. Jen, one of the questions that we’ve looked at time, and time again, and is really appropriate, we’re recording this on Friday, January 8, as schools across the country are sort of wrestling with questions of going back to the classroom. There is hope on the horizon, I think. The sort of Christmas and New Year’s was hopefully the kind of last gasp of mass gatherings that would potentially act as sort of nationwide super spreader events. We have a vaccine coming, and a lot of our healthcare workers and elderly folks are starting to get vaccinated, depending on how competent your state is in actually executing these things. So, we’re having to wrestle with this question, should students go back to school? What form should that look like?
So, one of the questions that we’ve been asking time, and time again, is asking parents if they are comfortable with their children going back to school. And we saw in this iteration of the survey, which went into the field before Christmas in December, that only 42% of parents said that they were comfortable sending them back to school. So, that’s a combination of very comfortable, and somewhat comfortable. So, the majority parents are still not comfortable sending their children back to school. What do you make of that?

Jen Wagner: Yeah, it’s not a huge surprise. And, I think as you look back over last year’s polling, there’s a lot of concern. Parents are worried about their kids bringing the virus home. They’re worried about, obviously affecting other family members. So, this one’s not a huge surprise, and not to discount our December numbers, but I’m very much looking forward to the January monthly update, because as you say, “We’ve got a vaccine on the horizon,” hopefully a lot of school districts, I know our school held back going back in-person after the holidays for a week, or two or three, so that they could prevent any of those sort of family gatherings turning into spreading events, and infecting a school or multiple schools.

So, I think I am cautiously optimistic that we’ll see this number maybe tick over into the more comfortable zone as that vaccine is more widely available. But look, I mean, I still have concerns. My kids go back to school on Monday in-person. I got COVID from school from a cute little eight year old who was completely asymptomatic. And he came home and gave it to everyone in the household except his 13-year-old sister. So, there’s a lot to be concerned about. That said, again, cautiously optimistic that we’ll see this number changing in the coming months.

Mike McShane: Paul, another number that we’ve seen that has kind of bounced around was how the coronavirus has impacted people’s opinions of homeschooling. So, we’ve asked this question every month, “How have your opinions on homeschooling changed as a result of the coronavirus?” And back in March, it was at about 26% of respondents, of school parents said they were much more favorable. It rose over the summer to up to, I think, 43% or so in July, and has since kind of crested back down to 29% in the most recent iteration. How do you look at that trajectory? Have we sort of regressed to the mean that sort of something happened this summer, and we can maybe expect this to level off where it is now? How do you interpret that?

Paul DiPerna: Yeah, that’s a really good question. I mean, it does seem like maybe we are hitting some sort of equilibrium with the trend line, where it did spike over the summer as you pointed out. And, through the course of the year… And I wonder if this could relate back to what Jen was just talking about in terms of people’s experiences, if there are some shifts to more school districts going to full-time, in-person or more hybrid modes of schooling; and so, that could have some impact in terms of how people are viewing that kind of schooling at home experience. And that still, I think I mentioned this the last time we were on a podcast together, where for this kind of question, I think it’s a challenge just on polling, and I’d caution any of the listeners and we’re teasing out what has been thought of homeschooling for a long time, traditional homeschool and conventional homeschooling.

And then, what we’ve been calling remote schooling. And the difference is really about who has the control over the curriculum, and the instruction at the home. And those things could be conflated a little bit in terms of how people are responding one way or the other to this kind of question. So, that just makes it that much more important for us to continue tracking this over time, hopefully that things go back to some semblance of normal for families and schools.

Mike McShane: Yeah. This remote learning question is an interesting one, because we also asked the question, “How has your school or school district offers of virtual or remote learning as an option?” “Did your school offer that and did you choose it?” And one of the things I found fascinating, so if we just look at, did your school district offer remote learning or if it didn’t, 78% of respondents had a choice, while only 22% did not have a choice. So, virtual learning was an offer. Now, of those folks that had a choice, the majority actually chose it. So they responded, “Yes, it’s been an option, and we chose to do it.” Only 26% of the overall respondents said that it was an option, and they didn’t choose it. Of those that didn’t have a choice, about twice as many were required to just go remote.

They didn’t have an in-person option. And the smallest minority had children that were just required to go to school the whole time. So, I mean, Jen, that seems to me to kind of clash, I think, a bit with some of the… You’ve heard a lot from the news media of like open or close, or we need people in school or not. I mean, it seems like folks have had choices. And to be honest, like a big group of people, even when they were given the choice, I think it probably jives with our earlier look of just the level of comfort with folks going back to school, but a bunch of peoples actually had the choice and wanted their kids to stay home.

Jen Wagner: Yeah. I think that’s an important distinction that you make between the data that we have here and the narrative on both sides that we’ve been seeing in the media. You do have all these headlines of parents that are protesting, because they want their kids back in the classroom. Or you’ve also had plenty of headlines of teachers concerned about going into the classroom. And, I know we’ll get to teachers in a little bit, but yeah, I mean, our data are pretty clear here. You’ve got that 52% of the folks who did have that choice, who opted for the online learning option. And then, I think it is important to notice that very few, at least by my take, people were forced to do one or the other. And elsewhere in the data, if you go on our website and kind of dig deeper, you find a tremendous amount of support for choice based on what parents got during the pandemic, which for me is an opportunity as school choice advocates, for us to continue that narrative and say, “Hey, you know what? When the world turned to dirt, you did have a choice.”

And now that we’re hopefully getting back on track in the next six months and things will go back to “normal,” don’t you want to continue having a choice, whether that’s homeschooling, online, whatever it might look like. But I think there’s a real opportunity for us here as advocates to say, “Look, your world got turned upside down, but having that choice was a very important thing for you in a time of need. Let’s keep it going.”

Mike McShane: Jen, you are nothing, if not relentlessly on brand. And I’ve always appreciated that about you. And I actually, the listeners can’t hear this but I’m actually wearing an EdChoice T-shirt right now. So, I think we’re birds of a feather, right.
But talking about school choice and choice options, I think it’s really sort of buttressing the point that you’re making there. I know we asked this question, “How do you feel your child or children are progressing on the following this school year?” We ask about academic learning. We ask about emotional development and we ask about social development. And we look at the sort of percentage of people who say that they’re doing very well. So, their progress, their academic progress has gone very well. Their emotional development has gone very well. Their social development has gone very well. And I think we see some substantial variation between different school sectors. So Paul, can you maybe explain that variation that we see, that pattern?

Paul DiPerna: Sure. So, this is a question that we’ve been asking to some degree, in some way for a while. And then, we changed it up as the school year came on to ask about these three dimensions. There were three kind of areas of where parents feel to how their children are doing academic learning, emotional development, social development. And it’s been pretty consistent that variation we were seeing across school sectors where private school parents are more likely to say that their children are progressing and doing very well in terms of academics, emotional development and social development. And about half of private school parents said that their children are doing very well academically. There’s a little bit less, 38% each from emotional development, social development. And, that was the high across the sectors. And then, what we see is that by comparison, district school parents were the least likely to say that their children were doing very well along those three areas.

Now, about a quarter to one-fifth said that for academics, emotional and social development. So, we do see these differences in charter school parents, homeschool parents, were somewhat in-between, a little bit closer to what the private school parents were saying. That kind of variation has been consistent the last couple of months. Something that we will continue to track through this coming year, and will be interesting just to see if, again, things start changing in the way district schools, private schools, charter schools are offering different types of modes of learning. If those are changing through the school year or maybe over the summer into next school year, how these percentages may be changing based on the responses of parents.

Mike McShane: Now, as if some of the stuff that we talk about isn’t controversial enough. We also ask some questions about vaccines, and some of the potential policies that could be related to vaccines. But I think also importantly, just general opinions that people have about the coronavirus vaccine and the rollout out there. So, Jen, I’m interested in your response to a couple of the questions that we asked. So, the first is that we asked, “When an FDA approved vaccine to prevent COVID-19 is available,” which it is, “do you think it should be mandatory or encouraged for the following groups?” We asked about teachers and staff in public schools and private schools. We asked about it for students. And then, we also asked this question, “If the FDA approved vaccine to prevent COVID-19 was available right now, would you agree to have your child…,” we asked parents teachers and all adults, “would you agree to have them vaccinated?”

So, I would be interested in sort of your takeaways from both of those, which is we asked people about their own personal opinions around vaccination, and we also asked them about policies and how that might intersect with schooling.

Jen Wagner: I think, here you see a lot of the, are you going to get vaccinated numbers track in our poll with national polling that’s been done by other polling outfits, AP and others late last year and into this year, where you’ve got roughly half of people are right now, considering getting the vaccine. I would guess that that number will go up as more people get vaccinated. There are understandably concerns about something that wasn’t around 10 months ago, and now is being touted as a way to prevent getting COVID-19. So, I think those numbers will change. I think the interesting thing about the numbers when it comes to the policy of mandating a vaccine is, as it often does, comes down to mandatory or optional. If you put those two groups together, you’ve got an overwhelming majority of people who either support a mandatory or an encouraged vaccine.

I think you see 20 – 24%. So, one out of five, or one out of four who don’t want it to be encouraged or mandatory, and that’s probably to be expected. But, I think the fact that you’ve got overwhelming support for either mandatory or encouraged is something that’s going to, hopefully give parents and teachers and students, the peace of mind that they need as we get back to “normal.” I think it shows a lot of belief in science, and the fact that we’re hopefully turning a corner on all this.

Mike McShane: This is going to be one of those numbers that’s interesting to watch in the future, because I think you’re exactly right. As more people get vaccinated, I imagine public opinion will change, but maybe it won’t. And, that is a teaser for folks to continue to listen to our podcast, and to continue to check these things out. So, Paul, I want to ask one last question about the general population survey, and I’m going to keep this sort of questioning to you, because it will also be the first question in our teacher survey. But a classic question of polling is the kind of right track, wrong track.

So we asked like, “Do you feel that things in K-12 education are generally going in the right direction, or do you feel they’ve generally gotten off on the wrong track?” So, we’ll start with the general population, and then maybe we can go into teacher. So we saw, I think the highest numbers of this back in April, and we’ve seen a pretty steady decline with some smaller bumps in there since then. So, how do you read the kind of broad trajectory that we look at from sort of January to December throughout the course of 2020, about how people see the direction that the American education system is going?

Paul DiPerna: Yeah. So, the risk of putting out a series of numbers over a podcast, it is helpful to look at what we were seeing before the pandemic, and then at the height of where we saw the right direction and how it’s progressed over time. So in last January, a year ago, we saw that about one-third had a positive sentiment, or they thought things were going in the right direction or district, only 22% said that nationally. So, that was 20-

Mike McShane: And we should say, this is the general population.

Paul DiPerna: This is the general population. Yeah. All adults. And then, we saw that climb steadily from January up to April, and that was the peak in our trendlines, where we saw almost half having a positive view of the direction and locally, 46%. And then, the climb was about 14 points on the national numbers, and how people felt things were going nationally. So, that got up to 36%. And since then though, we have seen a kind of slow decline over the summer and then into the early fall, and early school year months. And so in October, the number stood 40% having a positive view locally, 33% positive nationally.

But then we saw a pretty significant dip from October to November, and we saw it go down at least by seven points, as much as 10 points nationally from October to November. And then, some stabilization since from November to December.

And so where the numbers, they wiggled a little bit, up a point, down a point, depending on the view locally statewide or national. But, it’ll be interesting to see where things go, going through the rest of the school year and where we’ve already talked about a couple of times, the X factor of vaccine implementation; and also, and how that might change perceptions. And then, as well as any types of changes in policy locally, or at the state level over the next six months, and how that might also change perceptions about right direction, wrong track. And so, as you said, this is something we’ve been asking in our national and state polling for many years, and it’s that we will definitely continue to track monthly among adults and the general public, but then also quarterly among teachers.

Mike McShane: Yeah. And so, the teacher thing is sort of interesting because, I mean, if we look at exactly the description that you had of our general population, now, part of this is a little different because we obviously have 12 sort of snapshots and for the teachers, we just have four. But, when I look at the general population survey, I think of like, if you were skiing or snowboarding, that’s like a double black diamond, right, it’s like ups and downs, and zigs and zags, and whatever. When we look at the teacher numbers, it’s kind of like a gently sloping. What are the easy ones? The green, right. The ones that are like a football field wide, and have the kids just like yard sailing all over the place. Because as I see it, it’s just a very gentle, not a massive one. But it’s just sort of teachers saying that the education system is the right direction throughout the course of this year. I just sort of slowly trended downward. Maybe you could explain better than I am of what those numbers look like, and what you thinks happening there, Paul.

Paul DiPerna: Yeah, sure. So yeah, the trend lines do look a lot more gradual when you’re looking at the trends among the general public or among parents. And, part of that is that we just have four points in time where we have data, and it almost seems, the teacher views are a little bit more positive generally than the where the public is. It is important to note though, so from our September polling to our December polling, there was a pretty good amount of decline. So, its minus six points about how teachers felt things were going in their districts, minus seven points statewide. And then, there was a drop of 11 points on how teachers saw things nationally. And so, that’s a very significant drop. And, that stood out to me on this question, how teachers felt things were going nationally through the course of the school year so far?

Yeah. So, we’ll see also how teachers, who will be the vaccination plans. I mean, they’re big consideration of being one of the first phases of who are vaccinated. And, there’s still a lot of discussions about some of these bigger urban districts, and going back either hybrid or in-person. And so all of that, those decisions and the implementation in coming months will have an impact on teachers as much as the general public, or even more so, I would imagine on teachers. We’ll see.

Mike McShane: Yeah Paul, that’s a really important point, I think, that you make in interpreting these numbers of folks who are looking at the slides that we put out, to look at that number on the Y axis. Because, while those numbers have been declined, they started from a much higher baseline. So it’s right, just in general teachers see schools heading in a better direction than the national population does. So, even when they lose a little bit, they still are more optimistic than the general population. And so, Jen, I mean, another kind of interesting comparison question to ask here. We asked parents, “How comfortable they were sending their children back school?” We ask teachers as well. So, “How comfortable are you in returning to school?” And we asked this sort of by school type. We asked by how long they’d been teaching. When you look at those numbers, what do you see?

Jen Wagner: Yeah, this one was really interesting to me, because there was a much higher percentage of private school teachers who were expressing concern about returning to school in-person right now, than there were in the district and charter schoolteachers. And, I’m honestly kind of not sure why that is. Maybe it tracks with the length of teaching experience you also saw in those numbers. This was a little bit more to be expected. Some of the teachers who’ve been teaching for 20 years or more expressed a great deal, more concern about going back in person, than some of those younger teachers. And I mean, to me, reading between the lines of that probably just is related to age, and the fact that the older you get, the more susceptible you are to COVID-19, and having it be more serious than if you’re in those younger age groups. But I would love to probe more and learn more about why the private school teachers were less comfortable going back in-person, than district and charter school teachers.

Paul DiPerna: Yeah. Just to follow up real quick what Jen was saying, and I completely agree, and I think really pointed out something that is worth the attention. Looking at these subgroups of the teacher sample, so looking at where they’re teaching in the district schools, charter schools, private schools, and then other types of demographics by age, income, and other types of demos. Because there is a good bit of variation, and the private school numbers did surprise me. And I just also wasn’t really sure exactly how to interpret that. And also, it is interesting to see that, generally, when you’re looking at the full teacher sample, and how that percentage, 48% who said that they were uncomfortable is a little bit lower than for the parents and the general public.
And so, that also kind of stood out and was a little bit unexpected from what I could tell.

Mike McShane: Yeah. One of the numbers… I mean, obviously many of these numbers have been a huge bummer, but one of the numbers that has been, I think, really disappointing to be perfectly frank about it, as we’ve been tracking this, as we ask the question of teachers, “How prepared do you feel to facilitate online learning?” Also known as e-learning, remote learning or virtual learning. And, one of the things that has continued to shock me is the lack of change that we have seen in those numbers in some sectors, not in all sectors, which is sort of what we’re talking about. But even, the sort of, quote, unquote, growth we’ve seen in these numbers hasn’t really been that impressive. I mean, just to look at them for all teachers, when we asked back in March, “How prepared are you?”

The percentage of people who said “very prepared” was only 26%. Now, some were higher private school teachers and charter schoolteachers were higher up in the mid-30s, and traditional public-school teachers were lower at 21%. But look, that’s to be expected, right? This is new, haven’t done it before, fair enough. It is, what’s that, nine, 10 months later at this point. And when we asked the question of all teachers, remember in March, it was 26%, it’s only 28% now. We asked about traditional public school teachers, it went from 21% to only 23%. Amongst private school teachers, it went from 35 to only 38%. Now, charter school teachers, I think did the best, going from 35 to 44%. But even then, I mean like the movement isn’t huge. Jen, what do you make of this?

Jen Wagner: Yeah, this one was really surprising to me as well. Especially given that we bridged a school year between the beginning of the pandemic, and where we are now. So, these districts-

Mike McShane: Thank you, Jen. Thank you for highlighting that, we had this thing called the summer—

Jen Wagner: Summer.

Mike McShane: Conceivably, some of these problems could be worked out. I’m on a soap box. I’m going to climb off now.

Jen Wagner: No, no. I mean, you’re a former teacher, you’re absolutely allowed to be on that soap box. And as a parent, I mean, I will say just speaking from my personal experience, and I know Paul you’ve obviously had the hybrid and the e-learning experience in a public school, we’re in a private school and it did get better. But to be perfectly honest, my kids teachers are still exasperated. They’re still trying, especially my third grader, like God bless her, she tries to corral 18 souls on a Zoom screen three times a day, and you can just see how exhausting that is for her.

And so, I feel for all these teachers. I also, though, don’t know what else could be done. Because to your point, Mike, we’ve got people who’ve never done this before, teachers who are used to teaching in a classroom, kids who are used to being in a classroom. So, I wonder how much of this reflects a missed growth opportunity, a missed opportunity to learn better how to remote learn, and how much of it is just, this was an impossible feat and not much more could’ve been done to prepare.

Mike McShane: So now, Paul, we also ask questions like we did in the general population survey about academic learning, emotional development, social development for students. But in this case, we looked from the teacher’s perspective. Could you maybe walk through those numbers, and what you see them saying?

Paul DiPerna: Sure. So, it’s similar to what we just talked about with the general public, where higher percentage of private school teachers say that, “Their students are doing very well along those dimensions of academic learning, emotional development, social development.” But, the charter school teachers, that proportion of charter school teachers is a lot closer, and in the case of the emotional development question and indicator, they’re actually higher than private school teachers, in terms of saying that, “Their students are progressing very well.”

All of these percentages and proportions are less than a third… I think that also needs to be stated, that this is still less than a third, it’s a minority of the teachers that are reporting their students are doing very well. So that is just like, I mean, that’s a bright light in and of itself across the board. But when speaking in relative terms, I mean, it does look like private school teachers, charter school teachers have a relatively more positive and optimistic view of how their students are doing compared to district teachers, who one out of 10 district teachers are saying that their students are doing very well on academics or emotional development or social development.

And that would be another huge, bright, light and signal, I think at least suggestive of asking questions about, what do we need to do to advance and to support students, and to support teachers to help students along these three areas? So yes, the numbers are really interesting and something that we’ll continue to track too throughout the pandemic, and then after the pandemic, and to see how those trend lines may be change over time.

Mike McShane: Yeah. So, we also asked vaccination questions, though. I think we kind of covered that earlier, but just to get the top line numbers out of that. It appears that teachers are more likely to say that, both—they would agree to be vaccinated and they would agree to have their children vaccinated. So, 64% of all teachers said that they would agree to be vaccinated, while it’s only 46% of all adults and 48% of school parents. And when it comes to vaccinating their children, 51% of teachers said that they would, while only 38% of all adults would, though 45% of school parents would. But Jen, I’m actually interested in another question that we asked, and this’ll be the maybe last thing that we talk about related to these things.

But just talking about sort of… Paul gave a very good segue to this, and so I think that’s what I was really into. But just sort of teacher satisfaction. So, when you ask a Net Promoter Score question… And so, maybe Jen, you could start by explaining to people what a Net Promoter Score is, because I think that’d be helpful for them to understand it. And across all school types, we see a smaller percentage of what is called promoters. So, and we see just less happiness, less satisfaction with teaching in December than we did in March. So, maybe you could start by saying what’s a Net Promoter Score. And then, what those numbers say to you.

Jen Wagner: Yeah, absolutely. So, the Net Promoter Score is something that I think we’ve done a really good job of incorporating into our research over the years, not just during the pandemic and not just through the tracker. It comes from the consumer side of data collection, and it basically is a very simple question of, on a scale of one to 10, would you recommend this thing to someone else? In this case, this thing is the teaching profession. And, it’s worth noting that teachers are not always the best Net Promoters of their profession prior to the pandemic. But, this is a pretty significant slide from where we were back in March to where things came in December. You’ve got just 29% of teachers would give a nine or 10 Net Promoter Score to the teaching profession, if they were to recommend to a friend or family member, that’s less than one out of three.

It’s not good. You do see some differences, obviously, between the schooling types. Obviously you’ve got private school teachers and charter school teachers up significantly higher at 45 and 42% Net Promoter, and district teachers down at 23%. And all of those have seen a decline from the outset of the pandemic. And I think this reflects a lot of what we’ve talked about here is, teachers are being asked to do a lot more than they usually do in difficult circumstances with kids, who may or may not have access to technology. That’s something we’ve asked and in prior polls, that may or may not have access to decent Wi-Fi and can’t get onto these meetings.

Got kids who’ve literally lost, like more than a million kids out of the system, we don’t know where they are. And, that’s a lot to bear. And educators, I’m the product of two of them, already had a lot to bear before all of this hit. So, it’s not surprising, but I do wonder what the long-term effect of these numbers will be on our ability to continue to recruit high-quality educators into the classroom after all of this is said and done.

Mike McShane: Yeah. And, when we look at the timeline of this, it is funny, as you mentioned as a former teacher, so that our numbers were highest in March, they went down in June and then you saw like teachers have like the summer as if they were more likely to be promoters in Septembers. And then, these dark days of December, they’ve gone back down. So, maybe it’d be interesting if there’s some kind of seasonality to this as well, because I get that last sprint before Christmas and we’re asking teachers, “What they think about the place?” And, they’re looking for the exits. And so, I mean, look, I do want to say, because Jen, I think this is exactly right. We also had an open-ended option. And, I think that while I wish we could end on perhaps a happier note, I mean, I think it is worth saying, just sharing some of these things that teachers have said.

So, of those teachers who said that they were thinking that they might leave the profession, we ask this question: Why have you considered leaving the profession or retiring after this year? And these are, I’m just going to read some direct quotes, right. “COVID-19 has changed education. I think there’s no going back to normal.” “This made teaching extremely hard. “COVID has made everything so much more difficult.” “I was already contemplating retirement, and this made it clear that it’s time.” “It’s too stressful, and there’s not a lot of respect.” “Teachers are still taking the brunt of the criticism, working more hours.” “They’re not being compensated as they should.” “The requirements for teachers continue to grow and expand while the pay continues to freeze or decrease.” “I’m expected to take care of the students emotional behavioral and academic needs with no help from parents or the administration.” And finally, “Teaching is getting harder and harder each year. They put more demands on teachers, and less, and less responsibility on the kids and parents.”

You two are on the other side of this in that you are parents on that. Maybe, I mean, I’d be interested in both your views of the same things, but also in your reactions to what we hear teachers saying here.

Paul DiPerna: Yeah. So November and December, we had some parent-teacher meetings over Zoom. And so, we’ve been very fortunate with the teachers, and even some other support aids and therapists at the school for our daughters. And, they’ve been like a wonderful team to work with. And it’s very much, you have that feel of the team going into those meetings. But you can see, though, that there is stress. I mean, huge amount of stress. And, not even at all in a complaining way, but the way they would even describe how some of the operations are going, and just their daily routine of what they need to do. They might present it in a matter of fact way; but then, my wife and I would be kind of like, “Wow, how do you manage students in your classroom and students on Zoom at the same time by yourself? And try to teach that way, and to make sure everybody’s paying attention, and keeping students engaged… Try to motivate students, and to instill some kind of a love of learning?”

I mean, those are all the big tall orders. And so, it is going to be something to watch out for with these kinds of different points of stress, and other demands that were being put on teachers over time. And if it changes at all, and if these open ends change, that’ll be interesting. If we see other kinds of issues or topics kind of emerge, that’s something that we would definitely like to track. But yeah, so that’s just based on our experience that we’ve had with our girls teachers.

Jen Wagner: And, I think from my perspective, again, as a parent of an 8th, or 7th grader—sorry, she’ll be an 8th grade soon, which is also terrifying—and a third grader. I mean, you’ve just seen it… One of us sits with the third grader on all of his Zooms, because he has ADHD. And if you leave him alone, the ADHD takes the wheel and drives. So, we get to kind of see inside that classroom experience, that virtual classroom experience where a lot of other parents, I think are more comfortable having their kiddos sit alone with the teacher. And I remember one morning, and this was right before Christmas, Mike, to your point, that you’re just looking for that glide path to the holidays. But his teacher got on, and she was just exasperated.

She just was going in a million different directions. And she’s like, “I had two cups of coffee, and my day was going really well. And then, I logged on to Zoom.” All I could do is just feel for her. Because normally, you’re in a classroom and you can talk to the kids or you can take one out in the hallway and talk to him or her separately. And you can’t do that in this format. And similarly with the older kiddos, some of their teachers have adapted really, really well. But some of them are still laying on the same amount of work and the same amount of learning without the ability to follow that up and explain things. And, it’s just as exhausting for the students as it is for the teachers. And with that retirement issue that came up in the open ends in our survey, I have to wonder if going to see a massive wave of retirements after the 2020, 21 school year. And what fills that in?

Are we going to have a bunch of bright eyed, bushy tailed, young teachers who are really eager to get into the profession? Or are people going to continue to kind of give it a second thought, and debate whether or not they want to pursue teaching as a career.

Paul DiPerna: Yeah. And, just to just quickly follow up with that, because we did ask a question, Jen, as you were alluding to about leaving the profession. And the numbers that we’re seeing are at least right now, somewhat consistent with what we’ve asked in other polling, and also others like Pew Research, even about a year and a half ago, I asked questions about retiring or leaving the profession.

And so, what we saw is that teachers under 55 or more than half said they’ve considered leaving the teaching profession in the last three months. And then, among those teachers 55 and older, we asked about retirement, and 63% said that they’ve considered retiring in the last three months. And so, that’s another… Especially through the course of the school year, like we’ll have to track that, and see how the pandemic and all the stressors associated with their school year and the pandemic, and how that might be affecting those kinds of considerations. And then that has implications, like you pointed out about retention and recruitment, and those kinds of things, that people thinking about public policy and Ed schools and other kinds of training organizations, what they’re going to have to think about. And school districts in schools, and how they recruit. So there’s just, yeah, a lot that we’ll have to look into.

Mike McShane: Well, Jen, Paul, it’s been a pleasure as always. As always listeners, I’ll also direct you to our website. So, if this just sort of gets you interested, or you want to dig into these numbers even more, please head to the website to check out. Like we said, we have the full presentation of both our general population survey, as well as our teacher survey, all the crosstabs, the survey instruments, everything. We look forward to talking to you next month when we have another iteration of the general population poll, and in a couple of months, we have more teachers to chat with. But until then, thanks for listening, and we look forward to talking to you again on another edition of EdChoice Chats.

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