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Arizona teachers struggled to adapt to distance learning, survey says

(Yui Mok/PA via AP)

PHOENIX — The pivot to distance learning in the spring when Arizona schools closed due to the coronavirus happened so quickly that many teachers struggled to adjust, a new survey found.

Nearly 11,000 teachers responded to the survey by Expect More Arizona and most felt they were not prepared for the shift. Seventy-six percent of teachers said they felt somewhat or not at all prepared for distance learning.

More than half of teachers also reported an increase in the hours they worked per week during distance learning. And the majority of teachers said they relied on their own personal resources to teach their students.

“For anyone who’s involved in education – a school administrator, a teacher or even a parent – none of this information is all of that shocking to us,” said Christine Thompson, president and CEO of Expect More Arizona.

“We know that the pivot to online learning when schools closed was overnight,” she added. “It was tremendously difficult for educators and families and we’re seeing that validated through this survey.”

The survey also finds many teachers struggled to contact their students and the level of student engagement varied widely.

Only 14 percent of teachers said they felt that three-quarters or more of their students were engaged in distance learning. The majority said between 25 percent and 75 percent of their students were engaged.

Thompson points to several possible reasons for the lack of student engagement, including students not having access to devices and the Internet, school work not counting toward final grades and lack of motivation among students.

“As we look at the upcoming semester, educators are looking for ways to keep their students motivated, to keep that contact with parents and caregivers to really make sure that there’s constant communication between teachers, students, families in order to support students every step of the way,” she said.

Thompson said it’ll also be important to ensure students have access to technology while also supporting parents who don’t have experience using computers and other devices.

“We’re going to need to make sure we’re leaning in to help the neediest students,” she added. “That’s everything from ensuring we’re adequately addressing special ed student needs and english language learner needs, but also the needs to keep kids safe and fed.”

The findings are part of the phase two release of a statewide survey by Expect More Arizona.

The first phase released in June focused on teacher concerns and priorities for when schools reopen. The third phase will focus on feedback for decision makers.

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