Tennessee Education Association

Great Public Schools for All Students

            

TEA SURVEY SHOWS EDUCATORS STRUGGLING UNDER GRUELING CONDITIONS, LEVELING HARSH CRITICISM AT STATE HANDLING OF COVID-19 PANDEMIC

As students and educators begin the Spring semester, a statewide Tennessee Education Association survey of educators reveals just how difficult and time-consuming the fall semester was on educators across the state. Public school educators are struggling under tough teaching conditions of the pandemic, working longer hours with little training or support—often with inadequately supplied classrooms—and enduring the daily threat and reality of infection.

“Tennessee public school educators have been staying strong for months, taking the challenges of teaching in a pandemic head-on,” said TEA President Beth Brown. “Our educators need more support and resources as they begin what will certainly be another difficult semester. As the survey showed, most public school staff are working longer hours with daily disruptions and changing tasks, but with little guidance, support or tangible encouragement from the state. The state must do more to assist with the burdens of teaching in a pandemic.”

In December, more than 7,000 teachers, education support professionals, administrators and certified personnel participated in the confidential TEA survey on education working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. An overwhelming majority of those polled said their work is more or much more difficult than in past years.

Key findings of the survey include:

  • Eighty-four percent of teachers, 78% of administrators and 67% of certified professionals said they are working more hours than in the past.
  • The average Tennessee educator worked an additional 235 hours during the fall semester to overcome pandemic disruptions and maintain quality instruction.  
  • The concern of infection and the disruptions in teaching caused by the pandemic are taking a psychological toll on educators, with 84% reporting a negative emotional impact and half reporting being strongly impacted.
  • An overwhelming 91% of educators teaching virtually said they have been given new assignments and responsibilities that differ from their training and professional practices.

Additionally, a growing number of educators are being diagnosed with COVID-19. The rate of reported infections in the survey match TEA tracking data which shows educators having significantly higher infection rates than the general population and in the communities they serve. TEA estimates more than 16,000 public school educators have contracted the virus since July.  

“Educators are front-line personnel in this pandemic. From the stress of taking care of students and overcoming the disruptions the virus causes, to dealing with the anxiety of being infected and bringing it home to family and loved ones, these past months have been exhausting mentally, physically, and emotionally,” Brown said.   

While educators are critical of school districts’ response to the pandemic, the harshest criticism is leveled at the state government’s response, with 74% of respondents rating the state response poor.

“Our school districts have been left with insufficient guidance from the state, from how to slow infections or when to close schools to providing resources that assist with overcoming disruptions. The survey shows the high level of frustration with state leadership,” Brown said. “We’re 10 months into the pandemic, and one-third of teachers are still less than adequately supplied with personal protective equipment and cleaning materials. Most educators have once again dipped into their own pockets to purchase all the necessary supplies for their classrooms, and there is no excuse for that.”

“The survey confirms that we’ve worked more hours under the most difficult circumstances imaginable, going above and beyond for our students. The administration and legislature must acknowledge the sacrifices we’ve been making and take concrete steps to give us the support and recognition we have earned,” Brown said. 

*Survey questions and data available at this link.

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