87 percent of Georgia teachers, who responded to a recent survey, say school shutdowns during the pandemic have had a negative effect on student learning. The Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE) surveyed more than 6,000 educators across the state. More than 75 percent of those surveyed reported higher social-emotional needs among their students, including increased depression, anxiety, and social isolation.
PAGE Policy Analyst Claire Suggs says teachers report their workloads have increased since the pandemic started. They have to provide more communication to parents, and about half of them are teaching both in-person and virtually, she says.
“They are so focused on meeting children’s academic needs that they don’t have much bandwidth to really support the mental health, which is why they really lifted up the importance of having enough mental health professionals in schools right now,” Suggs says.
Most educators reported remote learning wasn’t as effective for the majority of their students but said a small portion of students did better with online instruction.
“I think this presents an opportunity to think about how, as we come out of the pandemic, are there ways to create more personalized instruction, so that those children who do seem to do better in a virtual format, are able to do that in their public school district,” Suggs says.
Teachers identified three changes that could help students academically during the pandemic: smaller class sizes, personalized learning, and more wraparound services.
PAGE recommends Georgia lawmakers expand money for school counselors through the state’s school funding formula. It also suggests investing in long-term strategies to retain teachers, such as offering a student loan repayment program to new teachers who agree to teach in high-poverty schools or areas with teacher shortages.
School districts should receive funding in the short-term to help shore up their budgets. Gov. Brian Kemp has recommended restoring about 60 percent of education cuts made to last year’s K-12 budget, and Georgia schools will soon receive about $1.7 billion in federal relief money.