Will This School Year Be Another Casualty of the Pandemic? Key Findings from the American Educator Panels Fall 2020 COVID-19 Surveys

School districts across the United States have had to make many difficult decisions to prepare for the 2020–2021 school year amid the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. However, until now, little information has been gathered directly from teachers and principals about what is happening on the ground, their perceptions of how students are faring, and which students they feel are most at risk of falling behind.

In this Data Note, researchers summarize selected findings on teaching and learning in the face of a pandemic by drawing on surveys administered via the RAND American Educator Panels (AEP) to nationally representative samples of teachers and principals in early October 2020. The findings paint an alarming picture of how the 2020–2021 school year is unfolding. Even though teachers are working more hours than they were before the pandemic, students are likely not getting all the curriculum content and instruction that they would have received during a normal school year. Students from vulnerable populations might be particularly likely to slip through the cracks. High proportions of teachers report that they are not receiving adequate guidance to serve many of these populations — especially if they are teaching them remotely — and low percentages of principals indicate that their schools are offering the tutoring needed to help students catch up. There are no signs that the pandemic is slowing, and policymakers must act fast to ensure that the entire school year is not another one of its casualties.