‘Dead kids don’t need math’: Teacher survey reveals lingering effects of lockdowns

File photo courtesy The Center Square Washington
File photo courtesy The Center Square Washington

A consistent theme of teacher survey responses was the need to adjust academic standards in response to the learning delay as well as account for student mental health.

TJ Martinell
The Center Square Washington

As the State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, or OSPI, looks to revise its academic standards for the K-12 education system, a recent teacher survey revealed the effects of the 2020-2021 lockdowns continue to impact student learning.

The survey conducted in February received more than 5,400 participants offering feedback regarding changes to standards for English, math and science. Almost 70% of them had six or more years of experience, with 36.7% having 20 or more years of teaching experience.

Out of the 10,000 comments submitted offering feedback on new standards for the various subjects, 78 of them specifically cited the continued effects of the COVID-19 lockdowns on students. A consistent theme among them was the need to adjust academic standards in response to the learning delay as well as account for student mental health.  

“COVID greatly impacted students in terms of academic growth and we cannot continue teaching the way we taught before COVID,” one teacher commented. “Yes, it is critically important to teach to the standards. But we also need to reflect on what changes, accommodations we need to make to make sure that ALL students succeed and the achievement gap doesn’t widen any more than it already has.”

Another teacher wrote that “our students took a big hit with covid. They are incredibly behind. While some students could keep up or even move ahead, the majority would benefit from stepping back a grade or two in standards. I would appreciate consideration or modifying our standards to match the current learning needs of our students.”

Other teacher comments included:

“Most of the students are now significantly behind in math, due to COVID. Pushing the standards as if they had not missed anything has been a struggle.”

“I think we need to address the fact that COVID blew all of these out of the water and that many students are behind, some several grades, in proficiency in these standards. There needs to be fewer standards that are more clear and relevant [sic] to where learners are NOW. Otherwise, this feels like a waste of time and energy until these gaps are addressed.”

“Students are behind due to COVID and teachers are struggling to still teach the CURRENT grade level standards due to large gaps from COVID. This is not the kid nor the teacher’s fault – but we cannot just cut standards without official direction and still move students forward in their learning.”

“I’m so tired of hearing that another child attempted suicide since Covid. I have many EMS providers in my family and the youngest successful suicide was 8. EIGHT!!! Our young people were and continue to be traumatized by the pandemic and the isolation it caused. If OSPI is serious about teaching the whole child, academics need to take a back seat while we work on mental health, coping strategies, and relationship building. Dead kids don’t need math.”

The OSPI is expected to finalize its new standards by early spring next year.  

This report was first published by The Center Square Washington.


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