Temperament and Narratives Lab

The impact of covid-19 on teachers, student involvement: kelsey mccurdy, jill briody, helena shoplik, sabrina callan, mary sarro, gillian zheng, samantha sommer, alexandria travis, carrie mcmahon, and ilcia hernandez , faculty involvement: dr. hedy teglasi.

Given the impact that COVID-19 has had on the education community and our continued interest in how to support teachers, the Temperament and Narratives Lab at UMD initiated a national survey of teachers. This study focuses on exploring the many ways that teachers are being affected by the pandemic. This study is being conducted by Dr. Teglasi and her team of eight doctoral students. Lab members have been busy completing tasks for this study within work groups that are focused on different aspects of the study. All lab members read responses from teachers and suggested potential coding categories for qualitative responses. A coding workgroup was established to further refine the coding manual. The coding workgroup included Kelsey, Jill, Helena, Sabrina, Mary, and Gillian. Additionally, a writing workgroup was established to create a preliminary dissemination of results, which included Helena, Sabrina, Jill, and Kelsey. Lab members continue to work diligently on this project with new work groups forming to create a research publication on the results. Stay tuned for both the publication of the preliminary results as well as the forthcoming research publication! Recently our work was highlighted in the Journal of Social and Emotional Learning in their "From the SEL Notebook" section, which you can check out here: https://www.crslearn.org/publication/celebrating-teaching/  and you can see the first page of the feature below. At this time we are able to provide demographic information about our participants as well as information about our coding process and initial data on teachers’ mood states.

Page 1 of the Journal of Social and Emotional Learning Feature

Demographics of the Sample

Our full sample currently includes 185 teachers representing 35 states across the US as well as military bases. For the preliminary dissemination of results, we chose to focus on responses to three qualitative questions included in the survey: (1) What are the most important issues for you right now, (2) what are you often thinking about with COVID-19 impacting many areas of daily life, and (3) write about a recent teaching experience that was meaningful and significant. In order for the coding of the qualitative responses to be comparable, we only included participants who responded to all three qualitative questions in the preliminary review of results. Thus, the demographics for both the full sample as well as the sample used for the preliminary dissemination are presented below:

Preliminary Review of Data—Coding Process

            The three qualitative questions elicited open-ended responses from participants and the lab members developed a coding manual in order to identify the most common concerns and experiences among teachers during the pandemic. First, all lab members read participant responses and identified themes common themes they came across. The coding work group took those themes and combined them, with the help of the Dr. Teglasi into integrated broad themes. The coding workgroup then individually applied the coding manual ten participants’ responses and reconvened to discuss differences, challenges, and to make refinements. After this, three doctoral students (Kelsey, Jill, and Sabrina) coded the remaining participants and established reliability. The entire coding workgroup used the refined codebook in order to continue to refine the coding manual for future reviews of the data. Eight broad themes emerged from the coding process: (1) Difficulties Acclimating to New Teaching Demands, (2) Personal Concerns, (3) Teaching Is A Relationship, (4) School as a Place of Community, (5) Self-Reflection About Teaching Identity, (6) Communication Between Administration and Teachers, (7) Difficulty Balancing Multiple Demands While Teaching Remotely, and (8) Education is Not Restricted to Academics. More information on these codes and the frequencies of the codes will be shared soon!  

Current Mood States of Teachers

In addition to providing demographic information and answering the three qualitative questions, participants were also asked to provide a mood rating by completing a shortened version of the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS). The PANAS contains two 10-item mood scales and provides brief independent measures of positive affect (PA) and negative affect (NA). In the current study, 5 items were selected from each of the two mood scales to create a shortened measure. Typically, the PANAS scales are the most representative indicators of overall positive and negative affect as they represent averages of the positive and negative mood states that are asked about. In the sample used for the preliminary review of results, teachers’ positive affect was on average around 2.67 (a little less than moderate; SD: 0.82) while their negative affect was on average around 2.86 (a little less than moderate; SD: 0.95). Although the PA and NA scales are typically used to describe the mood states, it is notable that in this case there was greater variation among items within the scales. For example, “determined” falls under PA and a majority of teachers rated that they were moderately, quite a bit, or extremely determined. On the other hand “inspired” and “excited” fall under PA, but a majority of teachers rated that they were moderately, a little, or very slightly feeling those emotions. Thus, it is possible that the PA and NA scale scores underrepresent some of the variation occurring in this sample at this time. Therefore, we provide the frequencies for each item below:

How Did COVID-19 Change Your Teaching, for Better or Worse? See Teachers’ Responses


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The sudden and unprecedented shuttering of our nation’s school buildings due to the COVID-19 pandemic forced educators to face the most jarring and rapid change of perhaps any profession in history. Within a moment’s notice, teachers were asked to leave their classrooms indefinitely and, in many cases, to recreate a learning environment that is 100 percent virtual.

As challenging as that dictate was, it represents possibly the best-case scenario in what’s proven to be an incredibly inequitable landscape during the pandemic. Whereas some school districts are conducting online learning in what’s been described as a fairly seamless transition, many others are struggling simply to connect with students and families to ensure that their basic needs—including sufficient food—are being met. Just as school districts’ responses during the pandemic have varied widely, so too have teachers’.

We at Education Week reached out to K-12 teachers across the country and asked them to answer this question: How has the shift to remote learning changed you as a teacher, for better or worse?

Their responses range from heartening to hopeless, and everywhere in between. Though varied, almost all of the feedback we received illuminates teachers’ commitment to their professions and to the students they serve. Here, we share a large selection of the responses we received via email interviews and an open-ended question on a recent EdWeek Research Center survey, edited for clarity and length.

Marilyn Pryle

10th grade English Abington Heights High School, Clarks Summit, Pa. 2019-20 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year

I find myself constantly asking the question, “What’s the most important thing students have to do or know?” when I look at each new topic. I have become an essentialist. And I’ve learned that the most important things are still possible with distance learning: reading, writing, discussion, choice, authenticity, and creativity.

Sophena Flowers

Special Education Teacher Virginia Beach Middle School, Virginia Beach, Va.

Having the students move away from a physical class where I am there to teach and answer questions immediately and where I could read the body language and facial expressions of my students takes away from my effectiveness as a teacher, relationship building, and the personal touch that special education students need.

Liz Russillo

9th grade science teacher Smithfield High School, Smithfield, R.I.

The shift to remote learning has changed me as a teacher. I can wholeheartedly say that the change has been, and will be, for the better. This shift has required me to use innovation and creativity for the most critical assessments while highlighting the importance of the teacher-student relationship. I will never again take for granted the student showing up for class early to tell me about their weekend or the student sitting in the back of the room trying to stay under the radar because they are having a bad day. These relationships are the foundation of the classroom and just so challenging in the remote world. Equally important as the relationships with students are the relationships with colleagues. As colleagues, we are collaborating more than ever in this remote world. We are relying on one another and working together so that all of our students are able to succeed.

Heidi Mozoki

Kindergarten Teacher Roland Park Elementary/Middle School, Baltimore City schools, Md.

Teaching kindergarten remotely has been an adventure. I have had to put on my vulnerable hat by allowing 26 families access to my home. I began by making short learning videos to engage my students in our curriculum. But as time has gone on, I have had to become extra creative in what lessons will keep my students coming back to my online Blackboard Collaborate meetings twice a week. I am glad that I developed strong relationships with my kindergarten families prior to the start of remote learning because it has made the transition smooth, and I have been able to connect with all of my students each week. Remote learning has validated that teaching is my calling. I love greeting my students each morning and learning all about them. I love hearing their stories and getting my daily hugs. I love watching the children play at recess, creating new games, and including new friends. The human connection side of teaching is what I value most, and with remote teaching, it just doesn’t feel the same.

3rd-5th Grade STEM Teacher Holy Spirit STEM Academy, Los Angeles, Calif.

As difficult as the transition to remote learning has been, I think it’s greatly improved the relationship I have with my students. I’m always trying to be better at differentiating instruction. I know that Zoom has had its issues, but personally, I love using it for my synchronous learning times. Breakout rooms have enabled me to continue boosting collaboration among my students. Additionally, I have more opportunities to meet one-on-one with students who are struggling without the distractions that naturally occur in the classroom. This time has also made me much more empathetic and flexible. I want my students to complete their assignments, but there is more going on at home than I know about. The learning must continue, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of the emotional well-being of the students.

Teresa M. Diehl

High School English Teacher Antilles School, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

I certainly have had to change my plans and assessments, and I’d say that’s generally a good thing since stagnant teaching and meaningless assignments can occur when we recycle the plans we’ve had success with in the past. Being forced to be creative in our delivery requires a rethinking of the content we’re teaching as well. My classes have each been shortened by 10 minutes, and we are discouraged from assigning homework, especially if it involves more screen time. Every minute of instruction, now, needs to be that much more meaningful and relevant. I assume students have complete access to books, notes, friends via text, and our good friend Google while taking a test or quiz, so I’m relying on higher-order questions to judge what they have learned.

Despite the shortened time, I’ve felt it is crucial to make a point to connect in the beginning of class by saying hello to individual students and asking them questions that will foster personal connections among them and with me. They need to know that they are not operating in a vacuum. It is frustrating to not be able to judge their facial expressions and demeanors as well as I could face-to-face, allowing me to get a good sense of students’ comprehension, confusion, and general well-being. And while I once bemoaned the class clowns and distractors, I now wonder if those same kids are quieter now because they’re depressed or their focus is elsewhere. So I have sent more emails, I stay behind in the Zoom room to see if anyone lingers with a question after class, I push harder for students to visit during extra help time, and I reach out to students’ parents, advisors, and appropriate administrators more to make sure their academic, social, (and WiFi connections) are moving forward. It has been more important than ever to understand students’ academic and home lives without judgement, and I hope we all carry that same degree of understanding once we can meet again face-to face.

Steven Tyler

Health and physical education teacher Plaza Middle School, Virginia Beach, Va.

Although I frequently use various technologies in my classes, this period has forced me to work outside of the box and use technology that I had not previously used as a part of my classes. Remote learning has served as a vehicle for me to become a more well-rounded teacher, and it has opened my eyes to the extremely difficult situations that some of our students face. It also has given me a new appreciation for the simple ability to go in to work and be with my students and colleagues.

REACH Program Coordinator Stewartville High School/Middle School, Stewartville, Minn.

I have always created my own classroom lessons by using real-life examples found on YouTube and other media. But also, I have always felt like I could be creative and do more. I have wanted for years to record videos with character lessons that we focus on in class. When I realized we would be moving to distance learning in our state...and likely not returning to school this year...that was my motivation to jump into a dream of mine. I wanted to make videos not only for my students, but also their families, and other students and families anywhere. The idea of REACH Reflection videos came to life with my first recording. I have now recorded about 40 of these videos, all of them focusing on character. They are posted on Schoology for my students and on social media for anyone else interested. In each video, I share a personal story, link it to the viewer’s life, and challenge them to put that lesson into practice. Being able to share these lessons has allowed me to dig deeper into how I feel about character, life, and how I teach. My REACH Reflections videos have brought a whole new layer of meaning and purpose to my teaching.

Leila Kubesch

Spanish and English Language Learner teacher, 7th and 8th grades Norwood City School District, Norwood, Ohio 2020 Ohio Teacher of the Year

The shift to remote learning didn’t change my practice—only the delivery. I think it is important to be flexible and prepared for anything. The positive change is how fast I found myself learning and embracing the format of technology that I didn’t choose in the past. Once school returns, I will always make videos of lessons to reach out to those who are home-bound and we will be better connected than before.

Erin McCarthy

8th grade social studies teacher Greendale Middle School, Greendale, Wisc.

The shift to remote learning has reassured me that the work I was doing to focus on the whole child in middle school before the pandemic hit was the right shift to make. Now that we are in week six of digital learning, I’ve been able to reflect, and I continually ask myself, “Am I providing continuity, consistency, flexibility and relevance in the activities and investigations I create?”

I’ve always known that helping students find their voice is one of the most important parts of teaching middle school. During digital learning, I’ve heard students say that they miss collaboration and working with partners to construct learning, so I’ve developed activities to meet those needs. I offered students the opportunity to collaborate in groups as they developed proposals for a business idea. I’ve also offered simulation games via Zoom conferencing so students can spend time with their friends despite social distancing. These elements make me a better teacher in many ways.

Anthony Grisillo

Teacher Librarian Glenwood Elementary, Rose Tree Media School District, Media, Pa.

I have been teaching for 22 years, so I am always looking for new, innovative, and virtual ways to connect with my students in authentic ways. Being forced to rethink all of my strategies, while incorporating methods I know to be effective, has energized my teaching. The excitement I feel when finding a new online resource or tool that will help me have a personal interaction with my students is incredible. Knowing that I need to focus on making sure my students’ human needs continue to be met in the virtual classroom, coupled with rigorous opportunities allowing kids to still take risks, has made me a better teacher.

Amy Campbell

Special education teacher Helen Baller Elementary School, Camas, Wash. Washington State Teacher of the Year 2020

I think it’s made me a better teacher already. I’ve always thought of myself as an innovator. This has really pushed the innovation envelope. During the shutdown, my teaching partner and I have been able to make many materials–YouTube videos and resources–available on a newly-created private class website. This is the first time I’ve created a way to ensure access, in one place, to a whole package of resources for students with disabilities to access outside of school. Use of these resources–accommodations, modifications, sensory strategies, augmentative communication devices–need to be visible and normalized so that the broader community understands how to support inclusion and improve access for all learners. I am excited to have this in place.

Jessica Davis

11th and 12th grade math teacher South St. Paul Secondary 2019 Minnesota Teacher of the Year

I’m still trying to figure out if it’s for better or worse. As a teacher, I’ve struggled most with reimagining how to fulfill my purpose as the connective piece for my students’ access to learning opportunities. It’s been a huge challenge to find the best ways to support all of their unique needs during these unprecedented times. That said, this whole experience has reaffirmed and increased my confidence in my own teaching philosophy.

Up until this point, all of my 14-year teaching career has involved regimented standards and standardized assessments. The COVID crisis has resulted in relaxing requirements around those standardized measurements. I’ve discovered that a huge challenge has been to get kids to try something new and independently when a previous accountability measure is no longer relevant. I teach math. I love math. But solving a quadratic is not the most important outcome in math class, especially not now. I now assign students to schedule a check-in with me. The lesson teaches them to navigate a new system, practice how to communicate a need for help, and research and seek answers to questions. In many ways I don’t really feel like I’m teaching math. Instead, I’m teaching confidence.

In the long run, on the other side of this, I’ll be a better teacher, and human, overall. I have more empathy for life outside of school, and I have more trust in my students and what they’re capable of.

Rachel Rodriguez

Grade 6 English teacher Plaza Middle School, Virginia Beach, Va.

The shift to remote learning has changed the way that I understand the level of clarity a middle school student needs and how I will run my classroom next year. When I create assignments and upload them, I try to create activities and directions that are as clear as possible. It helps me understand what is truly essential to their understanding so that they can be successful working on their own. I have also learned how to create video instructions using Loom. Now that I have the skills, I can use them in the classroom next year for students who need directions repeated as well as for students who simply need clarification. This way, I may be able to reduce the number of hands in the air during class so that I can successfully run a small group, and students can work toward being more self-sufficient during independent work.

Dena Lindsey

7th/8th Grade Social Studies Teacher Wilder Middle High School, Wilder, Idaho

I believe I have managed to keep students at the center of learning. The same students who struggled in school, in general, are the same students that are struggling to work from home. Establishing and maintaining student relationships has become more difficult in isolation, which is unfortunate because that can drive student motivation. Now, I’m a distant cheerleader. I’m making efforts to notice and acknowledge students’ efforts, their passions, and what really matters to them. Does this work for every student? No, but part of my “practice” is to be able to adapt to the individualized needs of my students, so I’ve had to remain flexible, sensitive, and responsive. So from that perspective, nothing has really changed.

I’ve had to also really watch for those students who may be struggling emotionally, and direct them to the right people for support. I think the virtual meetings I have with my kids have helped to provide some sense of normalcy, just seeing each other face-to-face, but nothing replaces that daily interaction. I miss the kids.

The following responses came from an open-ended question on a recent EdWeek Research Center survey of K-12 educators. The responses do not include the names of the respondents or their schools.

Elementary school teacher North Carolina

I have become so much better with technology! It was “sink or swim” and I have persevered and am so much more knowledgeable with using technology. I now have the time to research the numerous resources for teachers. This has also become an addiction of sorts! I can’t stop creating fun and engaging lessons! I suppose I feel I am trying to “keep my students close to me.” The computer has become my life-line to my students and I have a difficult time pulling away from it. Still trying to find the balance.

High school arts teacher Michigan

It has made me realize that remote learning is a horrible second choice to in-person learning. It can never replace a live teacher, because live teachers can watch the students as they are teaching the class, therefore getting feedback on how the students are comprehending the lesson.

Middle school teacher Indiana

Better–I’ve learned a lot more technological tools; email is helping me talk one-on-one with students. Worse: I haven’t figured out how to assess students at all.

Middle school teacher Ohio

My stress level is through the roof trying to balance home responsibilities, school responsibilities, and worry about my students. My frustration level is through the roof because I can’t be as effective as I was in the classroom and because I can’t get in touch with the students about whom I am most worried. I don’t seem to have clear work times. Some days I start before 7 in the morning and finish at 9 at night. I’m trying to be available to kids who need me at odd times. I’m trying to accommodate parents who need to let their kids sleep later because the parents are working from home. I have become much more aware of differences in students’ home lives. Things that they kept hidden have come to the forefront.

Elementary school teacher Maine

As the oldest teacher in the school, I was not prepared for teaching online the way the younger teachers were and I wasn’t ready for the loss of contact. The learning curve was steep and I’m still learning. Still grieving the loss of the way teaching used to be. I’m trying to find ways to continue that remotely.

Elementary school teacher Utah

It has made me more compassionate for varieties of dynamics within family units. I am “stressed” in new ways. In the beginning, because this is my last year teaching, I spent endless hours crying and waking at night with nightmares about how I would push out lessons that were quality, with online resources that I wasn’t capable (at that moment) of using. It has made me see that I can do hard things. I have learned so much in the past several weeks and what a way to leave the profession.

High school world languages teacher New Jersey

I have taught myself how to use new technology and have been forced to think about how I deliver the content. This has been a painstaking and time-consuming process. Because I am constantly grading or creating lessons in a digital format, I feel overwhelmed and have very little time outside of schoolwork to devote to my own well-being.

Elementary school teacher Texas

I honestly think this challenge has changed me for the better. I’ve had to explore and become adept at a wide variety of online platforms. I’ve developed new ways of communicating with students and parents, and have generally become more available. Because we will not have testing this year, I’ve been able to offer my students a wider variety of enrichment opportunities. And to be honest, it’s made me appreciate my students a whole lot more.

High school arts teacher Ohio

I’m depressed and I miss my students. I can’t connect well this way.

Elementary school teacher Florida

It confirms for me the need for face-to-face interaction and instruction. Many of my students are not doing the level of work that they would in class because they don’t have me physically there to hold them accountable. Many of my parents work and don’t understand the material. If they do not have a computer, the children are working on their own and the parents are not really helping. I teach at a Title I school with extended hours to help the struggling students. That support has been taken away. Technology is great, but overall for the students who need the most help, it does not serve them well.

Elementary school teacher California

It has made me realize how much I enjoy being in the classroom even after 35 years of teaching. It has also made me doubt my ability to continue to teach in an online situation.

Elementary school teacher Connecticut

I’ve had to come out of my comfort zone with relation to technology. The amount of time I spend designing fun, creative, engaging assignments to be delivered via Google Classroom is overwhelming. The emotional stress put on me has had a negative impact on my health resulting in illness.

Elementary school teacher Indiana

I have gotten better using technology that I would have never used before, and now I would consider using it next year—Google Meet for parent teacher conferences or helping students with homework questions. And for students who have been absent, it’s also allowed me to check in with them in a more visible and interactive way.

High school special education teacher New York

My role as an educator has changed for the worse. I am attempting to support my students with 504’s and IEPs in an environment in which they simply cannot thrive. While I am technically providing their accommodations, they need the human social emotional connection. They need me to be there for them.

Elementary education teacher California

I have more empathy for students’ home situations.

High school physical education teacher Connecticut

It’s been extremely frustrating not being able to see the students live. Much of what I can assess in the physical education class is based on skill performance, and the ability to relate and work with others. Distance learning challenges both of these. Physical education has turned into a much more academic course, which could lead to more stress for students.

Elementary education teacher Texas

Way worse! It is not any fun and is very stressful and feels unproductive! The only plus is I have learned more technology and formed closer bonds with the parents who faithfully participate.

Elementary school teacher New York

This has pushed me to try resources that I never had time for.

Elementary education teacher Colorado

I’m more adaptable, less motivated.

Middle school history teacher Connecticut

It’s made me learn quicker how to use some aspects of technology. I think it’s changed me for the better.

Contributing Writer Elizabeth Heubeck contributed to this article. A version of this article appeared in the June 04, 2020 edition of Education Week as Education Week Asks Teachers: How Did COVID-19 Change Your Teaching, For Better Or Worse

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Open Access


Research Article

Online education and its effect on teachers during COVID-19—A case study from India

Roles Conceptualization, Data curation, Formal analysis, Investigation, Methodology, Project administration, Supervision, Visualization, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing

* E-mail: [email protected]

Affiliation Area of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Management Indore, Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India

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  • Surbhi Dayal


  • Published: March 2, 2023
  • https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0282287
  • Reader Comments

Table 1

COVID pandemic resulted in an initially temporary and then long term closure of educational institutions, creating a need for adapting to online and remote learning. The transition to online education platforms presented unprecedented challenges for the teachers. The aim of this research was to investigate the effects of the transition to online education on teachers’ wellbeing in India.

The research was conducted on 1812 teachers working in schools, colleges, and coaching institutions from six different Indian states. Quantitative and qualitative data was collected via online survey and telephone interviews.

The results show that COVID pandemic exacerbated the existing widespread inequality in access to internet connectivity, smart devices, and teacher training required for an effective transition to an online mode of education. Teachers nonetheless adapted quickly to online teaching with the help of institutional training as well as self-learning tools. However, respondents expressed dissatisfaction with the effectiveness of online teaching and assessment methods, and exhibited a strong desire to return to traditional modes of learning. 82% respondents reported physical issues like neck pain, back pain, headache, and eyestrain. Additionally, 92% respondents faced mental issues like stress, anxiety, and loneliness due to online teaching.

As the effectiveness of online learning perforce taps on the existing infrastructure, not only has it widened the learning gap between the rich and the poor, it has also compromised the quality of education being imparted in general. Teachers faced increased physical and mental health issues due to long working hours and uncertainty associated with COVID lockdowns. There is a need to develop a sound strategy to address the gaps in access to digital learning and teachers’ training to improve both the quality of education and the mental health of teachers.

Citation: Dayal S (2023) Online education and its effect on teachers during COVID-19—A case study from India. PLoS ONE 18(3): e0282287. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0282287

Editor: Lütfullah Türkmen, Usak University College of Education, TURKEY

Received: November 13, 2021; Accepted: January 27, 2023; Published: March 2, 2023

Copyright: © 2023 Surbhi Dayal. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Data Availability: Data apart from manuscript has been submitted as supporting information .

Funding: The authors received no specific funding for this work.

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


As of November 4, 2021, the spread of novel coronavirus had reached 219 countries and territories of the world, infecting a total of 248 million people and resulting in five million deaths [ 1 ]. In March 2020, several countries including India declared a mandatory lockdown, resulting in the temporary closure of many institutions, not least educational ones. Since then, various restrictions and strategies have been implemented to counter the spread of the virus. These include wearing masks, washing hands frequently, maintaining social and physical distance, and avoiding public gatherings. The pandemic has greatly disrupted all aspects of human life and forced new ways of functioning, notably in work and education, much of which has been restricted to the household environment. The closure for over a year of many schools and colleges across the world has shaken the foundations of the traditional structures of education. Due to widespread restrictions, employees have been forced to carve out working spaces in the family home; likewise, students and teachers have been compelled to bring classes into homes [ 2 ]. Nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries have been physically out of school due to the pandemic. In total, 94 percent of the world’s student population has been affected by school closures, and up to 99 percent of this student population come from low-to middle-income countries [ 3 ].

According to the World Economic Forum, the pandemic has changed how people receive and impart education [ 4 ]. Physical interaction between students and teachers in traditional classrooms has been replaced by exchanges on digital learning platforms, such as online teaching and virtual education systems, characterized by an absence of face-to-face connection [ 5 ]. Online education has thus emerged as a viable option for education from preschool to university level, and governments have used tools such as radio, television, and social media to support online teaching and training [ 6 ]. Various stakeholders, including government and private institutions, have collaborated to provide teachers with resources and training to teach effectively on digital platforms. New digital learning platforms like Zoom, Google Classroom, Canvas, and Blackboard have been used extensively to create learning material and deliver online classes; they have also allowed teachers to devise training and skill development programs [ 7 ]. Many teachers and students were initially hesitant to adopt online education. However indefinite closure of institutions required educational facilities to find new methods to impart education and forced teachers to learn new digital skills. Individuals have experienced different levels of difficulty in doing this; for some, “it has resulted in tears, and for some, it is a cup of tea” [ 8 ].

Teachers have reported finding it difficult to use online teaching as a daily mode of communication, and enabling students’ cognitive activation has presented a significant challenge in the use of distance modes of teaching and learning. Teachers have also expressed concerns about administering tests with minimal student interaction [ 9 ]. Lack of availability of smart devices, combined with unreliable internet access, has led to dissatisfaction with teacher-student interaction. Under pressure to select the appropriate tools and media to reach their students, some teachers have relied on pre-recorded videos, which further discouraged interaction. In locations where most teaching is done online, teachers in tier 2 and tier 3 cities (i.e., semi-urban areas) have had to pay extra to secure access to high-speed internet, digital devices, and reliable power sources [ 10 ]. Teachers in India, in particular, have a huge gap in digital literacy caused by a lack of training and access to reliable electricity supply, and internet services. In rural or remote areas, access to smart devices, the internet, and technology is limited and inconsistent [ 6 ]. In cities, including the Indian capital Delhi, even teachers who are familiar with the required technology do not necessarily have the pedagogical skills to meet the demands of online education. The absence of training, along with local factors (for example, stakeholders’ infrastructure and socio-economic standing), contributes to difficulties in imparting digital education successfully [ 10 ]. The gap in digital education across Indian schools is striking. For example, only 32.5% of school children are in a position to pursue online classes. Only 11% of children can take online classes in private and public schools, and more than half can only view videos or other recorded content. Only 8.1% of children in government schools have access to online classes in the event of a pandemic-related restrictions [ 11 ].

The adverse effects of COVID-19 on education must therefore be investigated and understood, particularly the struggles of students and teachers to adapt to new technologies. Significant societal effects of the pandemic include not only serious disruption of education but also isolation caused by social distancing. Various studies [ 7 , 12 , 13 ] have suggested that online education has caused significant stress and health problems for students and teachers alike; health issues have also been exacerbated by the extensive use of digital devices. Several studies [ 6 , 11 , 14 ] have been conducted to understand the effects of the COVID lockdown on digital access to education, students’ physical and emotional well-being, and the effectiveness of online education. However, only a few studies [ 13 , 15 – 17 ] have touched the issues that teachers faced due to COVID lockdown.

In this context, this study is trying to fill existing gaps and focuses on the upheavals that teachers went through to accommodate COVID restrictions and still impart education. It also provides an in-depth analysis of consequences for the quality of education imparted from the teachers’ perspective. It discusses geographical inequalities in access to the infrastructure required for successful implementation of online education. In particular, it addresses the following important questions: (1) how effectively have teachers adapted to the new virtual system? (2) How has online education affected the quality of teaching? (3) How has online education affected teachers’ overall health?

Because of lockdown restrictions, data collection for this study involved a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods in the form of online surveys and telephonic interviews. A questionnaire for teachers was developed consisting of 41 items covering a variety of subjects: teaching styles, life-work balance, and how working online influences the mental and physical well-being of teachers. In the interviews, participants were asked about their experiences of online teaching during the pandemic, particularly in relation to physical and mental health issues. A pilot study was conducted with thirty respondents, and necessary changes to the items were made before the data collection. The survey tool was created using google forms and disseminated via email, Facebook, and WhatsApp. A total of 145 telephonic interviews were also conducted to obtain in-depth information from the respondents.

The data were collected between December 2020 and June 2021. The Research Advisory Committee on Codes of Ethics for Research of Aggrawal College, Ballabhgarh, Haryana, reviewed and approved this study. A statement included in the google survey form as a means of acquiring written consent from the participants. Information was gathered from 1,812 Indian teachers in six Indian states (Assam, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, New Delhi, and Rajasthan) working in universities, schools, and coaching institutions. Nearly three-quarters of the total sample population was women. All participants were between the ages of 18 and 60, with an average age of 34 and a clear majority being 35 or younger. Nearly three-quarters of participants work in private institutions (25% in semi-government entities and the remainder in government entities). In terms of education, 52% of participants have a graduate degree, 34% a postgraduate degree, and 14% a doctorate. Table 1 summarizes the demographic characteristics of the participants.


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Results & discussion

Upon analyzing the survey responses, three crucial areas were identified for a better understanding of the effect of COVID-19 on the Indian education system and its teachers: how effectively teachers have adapted, how effective teaching has been, and how teachers’ health has been affected.

1. How effectively have teachers adapted to the new virtual system?

The first research question concerns how willing teachers were to embrace the changes brought about by the online teaching system and how quickly they were able to adapt to online modes of instruction. This information was gathered from December 2020 to June 2021, at which point teachers had been dealing with school lockdowns for months and therefore had some time to become conversant with online teaching.

While 93.82% of respondents were involved in online teaching during the pandemic, only 16% had previously taught online. These results were typically different from the results of a similar study conducted in Jordon where most of the faculty (60%) had previous experience with online teaching and 68% of faculty had also received formal training [ 16 ]. Since the spread of COVID-19 was rapid and the implementation of the lockdown was sudden, government and educational institutions were not prepared for alternative modes of learning, and teachers needed some time for adjustment. Several other factors also affected the effectiveness of the transition to online education, namely access to different types of resources and training [ 18 ].

a. Access to smart devices.

Online teaching requires access to smart devices. A surprising number of teachers stated that they had internet access at home via laptops, smartphones, or tablets. A more pertinent question, however, was whether they had sole access to the smart device, or it was shared with family members. Only 37.25% of those surveyed had a device for their exclusive use while others shared a device with family members, due to lack of access to additional devices and affordability of new devices. During the lockdown, an increase in demand led to a scarcity of smart devices, so that even people who could afford to buy a device could not necessarily find one available for purchase. With children attending online classes, and family members working from home, households found it difficult to manage with only a few devices, and access to a personal digital device became an urgent matter for many. Respondents admitted to relying on their smartphones to teach courses since they lacked access to other devices. Teachers on independent-school rosters were significantly better equipped to access smart devices than those employed at other types of schools. The data also indicates that teachers in higher education and at coaching centers had relatively better access to laptops and desktop computers through their institutions, whereas teachers in elementary and secondary schools had to scramble for securing devices for their own use.

b. Internet access.

Internet access is crucial for effective delivery of online education. However, our survey shows that teachers often struggled to stay connected because of substantial differences between states in the availability of internet. Of the respondents, 52% reported that their internet was stable and reliable, 32% reported it to be satisfactory and the rest reported it to be poor. Internet connectivity was better in the states of Karnataka, New Delhi, and Rajasthan than in Assam, Haryana, and Madhya Pradesh. Internet connectivity in Assam was particularly poor. Consequently, many teachers with access to advanced devices were unable to use them due to inadequate internet connection.

The following comments from a teacher in Assam capture relevant situational challenges: “I do not have an internet modem at home, and teaching over the phone is difficult. My internet connection is exhausted, and I am unable to see or hear the students.” Another teacher from Haryana reported similar difficulties: “During the lockdown, I moved to my hometown, and I do not have internet access here, so I go to a nearby village and send videos to students every three days.” Another teacher from Madhya Pradesh working at a premier institution reported experiencing somewhat different concerns: “I am teaching in one of the institute’s semi-smart classrooms, and while I have access to the internet, my students do not, making it difficult to hear what they are saying.”

These responses indicates clearly that it is not only teachers living in states where connectivity was poor who experienced difficulties in imparting education to students; even those who had good internet connectivity experiences problems caused by the poor internet connections of their students.

c. Tools for remote learning.

Teachers made use of a variety of remote learning tools, but access to these tools varied depending on the educator’s affiliation. Teachers at premier institutions and coaching centers routinely used the Zoom and Google Meet apps to conduct synchronous lessons. Teachers at state colleges used pre-recorded videos that were freely available on YouTube. Teachers in government schools used various platforms, including WhatsApp for prepared material and YouTube for pre-recorded videos. To deliver the content, private school teachers used pre-recorded lectures and Google Meet. In addition to curriculum classes, school teachers offered life skill classes (for example, cooking, gardening, and organizing) to help students become more independent and responsible in these difficult circumstances. In addition to online instruction, 16% of teachers visited their students’ homes to distribute books and other materials. Furthermore, of this 36% visited students’ homes once a week, 29% visited twice a week, 18% once every two weeks, and the rest once a month. Additionally, a survey done on 6435 respondents across six states in India reported that 21% teachers in schools conducted home visits for teaching children [ 19 ].

d. Knowledge and training for the use of information and communication technologies.

With the onset of the pandemic, information and communication technology (ICT) became a pivotal point for the viability of online education. The use of ICT can facilitate curriculum coverage, application of pedagogical practices and assessment, teacher’s professional development, and streamlining school organization [ 20 ]. However, the effective adoption and implementation of ICT necessitated delivery of appropriate training and prolonged practice. Also the manner in which teachers use ICT is crucial to successful implementation of online education [ 21 ]. While countries such as Germany, Japan, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States recognized the importance of ICT by integrating it into their respective teacher training programmes [ 22 ], this has not been case in India. However, there are some training programmes available to teachers once they commence working. In accordance with our survey results, the vast majority of respondents (94%) lacked any ICT training or experience. In the absence of appropriate tools and support, these teachers self-experimented with online platforms, with equal chances of success and failure.

The transition from offline to online or remote learning was abrupt, and teachers had to adapt quickly to the new systems. Our data indicate that teachers in professional colleges and coaching centers received some training to help them adapt to the new online system, whereas teachers in urban areas primarily learned on their own from YouTube videos, and school teachers in rural areas received no support at all. Overall, teachers had insufficient training and support to adjust to this completely new situation. Policy research conducted on online and remote learning systems following COVID-19 has found similar results, namely that teachers implemented distance learning modalities from the start of the pandemic, often without adequate guidance, training, or resources [ 23 ]. Similar trends have been found in the Caribbean, where the unavailability of smart learning devices, lack of or poor internet access, and lack of prior training for teachers and students hampered online learning greatly. Furthermore, in many cases the curriculum was not designed for online teaching, which was a key concern for teachers [ 24 ]. Preparing online lectures as well as monitoring, supervising and providing remote support to students also led to stress and anxiety. Self-imposed perfectionism further exacerbated these issues while delivering online education [ 15 ]. A study conducted on 288 teachers from private and government schools in Delhi and National Capital Region area, also found that transition to online education has further widened the gap between pupils from government and private schools. It was more difficult to reach students from economically weaker sections of the society due to the digital divide in terms of access, usage, and skills gap. The study also found that even when teachers were digitally savvy, it did not mean that they know how to prepare for and take online classes [ 10 ].

2. How has online education affected the quality of teaching?

Once teachers had acquired some familiarity with the online system, new questions arose concerning how online education affected the quality of teaching in terms of learning and assessment, and how satisfied teachers were with this new mode of imparting education. To address these questions, specific questionnaire items about assessment and effectiveness of teaching has been included.

a. Effectiveness of online education.

Respondents agreed unanimously that online education impeded student-teacher bonding. They reported several concerns, including the inattentiveness of the majority of the students in the class, the physical absence of students (who at times logged in but then went elsewhere), the inability to engage students online, and the difficulty of carrying out any productive discussion given that only a few students were participating. Another significant concern was the difficulty in administrating online tests in light of widespread cheating. In the words of one teacher: “I was teaching a new class of students with whom I had never interacted in person. It was not easy because I could not remember the names of the students or relate to them. Students were irritated when I called out their names. It had a significant impact on my feedback. I would like us to return to class so I do not have to manage four screens and can focus on my students and on solving their problems.”

For these reasons, 85.65% of respondents stated that the quality of education had been significantly compromised in the online mode. As a result, only 33% reported being interested in continuing with online teaching after COVID-19. The results show slightly higher dissatisfaction in comparison to another study conducted in India that reported 67% of teachers feeling dissatisfied with online teaching [ 25 ]. Findings of this study were similar to the findings of a survey of lecturers in Ukraine assessing the effectiveness of online education. Lower quality student work was cited as the third most mentioned problem among the problems cited by instructors in their experience with online teaching, right behind unreliable internet connectivity and the issues related with software and hardware. Primary reasons for lower quality student work were drop in the number of assignments and work quality as well as cheating. Almost half (48.7%) of the participants expressed their disapproval of online work and would not like to teach online [ 26 ].

Due to the nature of the online mode, teachers were also unable to use creative methods to teach students. Some were accustomed to using physical objects and role-playing to engage students in the classroom, but they found it extremely difficult to make learning exciting and to engage their students in virtual space. Similar trends have been reported in Australia, where schoolteachers in outback areas did not find online education helpful or practical for children, a majority of whom came from low-income families. The teachers were used to employing innovative methods to keep the students engaged in the classroom. However, in online teaching, they could not connect with their students using those methods, which significantly hampered their students’ progress. Some teachers mentioned difficulties with online teaching caused by not being able to use physical and concrete objects to improve their instructions [ 27 ].

b. Online evaluation.

Of our respondents, 81% said that they had conducted online assessments of their students. Teachers used various online assessment methods, including proctored closed/open book exams and quizzes, assignment submissions, class exercises, and presentations. Teachers who chose not to administer online assessments graded their students’ performance based on participation in class and previous results.

Almost two-thirds of teachers who had administered online assessments were dissatisfied with the effectiveness and transparency of those assessments, given the high rates of cheating and internet connectivity issues. They also reported that family members had been helping students to cheat in exams because they wanted their children to get higher grades by any means necessary. In response, the teachers had tried to devise methods to discourage students and their families from cheating, but they still felt powerless to prevent widespread cheating.

As one respondent stated: “We are taking many precautions to stop cheating, such as asking to install a mirror behind the student and doing online proctoring, but students have their ways out for every matter. They disconnect the internet cable or turn it off and reconnect it later. When we question them, they have a connectivity reason ready”.

Teachers are also concerned about the effects of the digital skills gap on their creation of worksheets, assessments, and other teaching materials. As a result, some private companies have been putting together teacher training programs. The main challenge pertains to be implementation of a type of specialized education that many teachers are unfamiliar with and unwilling to adopt [ 28 ]. Because of the lack of effective and transparent online assessments, school teachers have reported that students were promoted to the next level regardless of their performance. Thus, only time will tell how successful online education has been in terms of its effects on the lives of learners.

3. How has online education affected teacher’s overall health?

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought about a situation that few people had experienced or even imagined living through. Governments and individuals tried their best to adjust to the new circumstances, but sudden lockdown, confinement to the household periphery, and working from home had adverse effects on the mental and physical health of many people, including educators and students. To clarify the effects of online education on teachers’ overall health, a number of questionnaire items were focused on respondents’ feelings during the lockdown, the physical and mental health issues they experienced, and their concerns about the future given the uncertainty of the present situation.

a. Physical health issues.

COVID-19 brought a multitude of changes to the lives of educators. Confinement to the household, working from home, and an increased burden of household and caregiving tasks due to the absence of paid domestic assistants increased physical workload and had corresponding adverse effects on the physical health of educators.

Of the study participants, 82% reported an increase in physical health issues since the lockdown ( Fig 1 ). Notably, 47% of those who were involved in digital mode of learning for less than 3 hours per day reported experiencing some physical discomfort daily, rising to 51% of teachers who worked online for 4–6 hours per day and 55% of teachers who worked more than 6 hours per day. Respondents reported a variety of physical health issues, including headaches, eye strain, back pain, and neck pain.



The number of hours worked showed a positive correlation with the physical discomfort or health issues experienced. A chi-square test was applied to determine the relationship between the number of online working hours and the frequency of physical issues experienced by the participants and found it to be significant at the 0.05 level ( Table 2 ).



As Fig 2 shows, 28% respondents’ complaint about experiencing giddiness, headaches; 59% complain of having neck and back pain. The majority of the participants had eye-strain problems most of the time; 32% faced eye problems sometimes, and 18% reported never having any eye issue. In addition, 49% had experienced two issues at the same time and 20% reported experiencing more than 2 physical issues at the same time.



The data in this study indicates a link between bodily distresses and hours worked. As working hours increased, so did reports of back and neck pain. 47% respondents reported back and neck pain after working for 3 hours or less, 60% after working for 3–6 hours, and nearly 70% after working for 6 hours or more.

The analysis also indicates link between physical issues experienced and the educator’s gender. Women experienced more physical discomfort than men, with 51% reporting frequent discomfort, compared to only 46% of men. Only 14% of female educators reported never experiencing physical discomfort, against 30% of male educators.

In terms of types of discomfort, 76% of female teachers and 51% of male teachers reported eye strain; 62% of female teacher and 43% of male teachers reported back and neck pain; 30% of female teachers and 18% of male teachers said they had experienced dizziness and headaches. The gender differences may be caused by the increase in household and childcare responsibilities falling disproportionately on female educators compared to their male counterparts. Several studies [ 17 , 29 – 31 ] have reported similar results, indicating that the gender gap widened during the pandemic period. The social expectations of women to take care of children increased the gender gap during the pandemic by putting greater responsibilities on women in comparison to men [ 29 ]. Women in academics were affected more in comparison to the men. Working from home burdened female educators with additional household duties and childcare responsibilities. A study done [ 32 ] in France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, the United States and the United Kingdom discovered that women were immensely affected by lockdown in comparison to men. On top of this, women with children are affected more than women without children.

No effect of age on physical discomfort was observed in this study but increasing use of online tools (such as class websites) for content creation and delivery and extended working periods were major contributors to health problems.

b. Mental health issues.

The psychological effects of the COVID-19 pandemics have also proved difficult to manage. Being at home all day with limited social interaction, not to mention other pandemic-related sources of stress, affected the mental health of many people. The majority of the participants in this study admitted experiencing mental health issues including anxious feelings, low mood, restlessness, hopelessness, and loneliness. According to UNESCO [ 33 ], due to the sudden closure of schools and adaptability to new systems, teachers across the world are suffering from stress. Studies conducted in various parts of the world confirmed similar trends [ 34 , 35 ]. In Israel, teachers reported psychological stress due to online teaching. 30.4% teachers reported being stressed in comparison to 6.1% teachers in traditional classroom settings [ 34 ]. In Spain, teachers experienced various kinds of mental health issues like anxiety, stress, and depression [ 36 ]. An Arabian study found an increased number of cases related to anxiety, depression, and violence during the pandemic [ 37 ]. In New Zealand teachers in Higher education reported being overwhelmed due to the online teaching [ 15 ].

Online teaching appears to have negatively affected the mental health of all the study participants. Women (94%) reported more mental health issues than men (91%), as shown in Fig 3 . Nearly two-thirds of participants said they had been dealing with mental health issues regularly and a third occasionally; only 7% said they never dealt with them. Findings of this study are in line with other studies which found that female teachers had higher levels of stress and anxiety in comparison to men [ 36 ]. Studies conducted in China reported that teachers developed mental health issues due to online classes [ 37 , 38 ].



Our analysis indicated a positive relationship between the number of working hours and the frequency of mental health issues. Of the respondents who worked online for less than 3 hours, 55% experienced some kind of mental health issue; this rose to 60% of participants who worked online for 3–6 hours, and 66% of those who worked more than 6 hours every day. A chi-square test was applied to determine the relationship between the number of online working hours and the frequency of mental issues experienced by the participants and found it to be significant at the 0.05 level ( Table 3 ).



In terms of types of mental health issues, respondents reported restlessness, anxious feelings, and a sense of powerlessness, along with feelings of hopelessness, low mood, and loneliness as shown in Fig 4 . The stress of adapting to a new online working environment, the extended hours of work required to prepare content in new formats, the trial-and-error nature of learning and adopting new practices, uncertainty caused by lockdown, and an overall feeling of having no control were some of the contributing factors.



Mental health issues were more common among those under the age of 35, with 64% reporting a problem most of the time compared to 53% of those over 35. It has been found that job uncertainty is one of the primary causes of a higher prevalence of mental health concerns among younger respondents than among older respondents. These findings are in line with other studies which found higher levels of stress among the young people in comparison to older one [ 36 , 39 ]. Feelings of loneliness and a sense of no control were reported by 30% of respondents under the age of 35, with these feelings occurring constantly or most of the time; only 12% of respondent over the age of 35 reported experiencing these feelings always or most of the time. Of respondents under 35 years of age 61% felt lonely at some point during the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to only 40% of those age 35 or older.

This study also found gender-based differences in the frequency of mental health issues experienced, with 62% of male respondents and 52% of female respondents reporting that they had always experienced mental health issues. The types of issues also differed by gender, with men more likely to report restlessness and loneliness and women more likely to report feeling anxious or helpless. More female respondents reported feelings of hopelessness than male respondents (76% compared to 69%), and they were also more anxious (66%).

The uncertainty of the pandemic seems to have caused helplessness and anxious feelings for female teachers in particular, perhaps because a lack of paid domestic help increased the burden of household and caregiving tasks disproportionately for women at a time when the pressure to adapt to new online platforms was particularly acute. In some cases, respondents left their jobs to accommodate new family dynamics, since private employers offered no assistance or flexibility. Deterioration of mental health also led to the increased number of suicides in Japan during COVID-19 [ 39 ].

However, female teachers fared better than their male counterparts on some measures of mental health. Although half of the respondents (men and women equally) reported low mood during the pandemic, the men reported more restlessness (53%) and loneliness (59%) than the women (50% and 49%, respectively). Restrictions on eating and drinking outside the household may have had a disproportionate effect on male respondents, making them more likely to feel restless or lonely than their female counterparts, who may have handled COVID-related isolation better by being more involved in household work and caregiving.

Number of hours worked online was also a factor contributing to mental health issues. Just as respondents had more physical complaints (including eye strain, back and neck pain, and headaches) the more hours they worked online, respondents who worked longer hours online reported more mental health issues.

One of the major drawbacks of online education is the widespread occurrence of physical and mental health issues, and the results of this study corroborate concerns on this point. This study found that online teaching causes more mental and physical problems for teachers than another study, which only found that 52.7% of respondents had these problems [ 12 ].

A report by the University of Melbourne has also indicated that online teaching and learning have a negative effect on the physical and mental well-being of individuals. Teachers working from home, in particular, have reported isolation, excessive screen time, inability to cope with additional stress, and exhaustion due to increased workload; despite being wary of the risks of exposure to COVID-19, they were eager to return to the campus [ 27 ].

c. Support mechanisms.

In general, teachers experienced good support from family and colleagues during the pandemic, with 45.64% of teachers reported receiving strong support, 29.64 percent moderate support (although the remainder claimed to have received no or only occasional support from family and colleagues). 9.39% of male respondents reported that they have never received any support in comparison to 4.36% females. Female respondents reported receiving more support than male respondents perhaps because they have access to a more extensive network of family members and coworkers. Children, parents, and siblings were cited as the provider of a robust support system by most female respondents. For example, maternal relatives called or texted children to keep them engaged and helped them with homework, and female participants said their peers helped them to prepare lectures and materials. A link was also found between age and support; the older the respondent, the stronger the support system. A possible explanation for this difference is that older people have had time to develop stronger and longer-lasting professional and personal ties than younger people.

This study explored the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Indian education system and teachers working across six Indian states. The effectiveness of online education methods varied significantly by geographical location and demographics based on internet connectivity, access to smart devices, and teachers’ training. While premier higher education institutions and some private institutions had provided teachers with the necessary infrastructure and training to implement effective successful online learning with relatively few challenges, teachers at schools and community colleges have more often been left to adopt a trial-and-error approach to the transition to an online system. Further, it indicates that online education has had a significant effect on the quality of education imparted and the lives and wellbeing of teachers. While online learning has enabled teachers to reach out to students and maintain some normalcy during a time of uncertainty, it has also had negative consequences. Owing to the lack of in-person interaction with and among students in digital classes, the absence of creative learning tools in the online environment, glitches and interruptions in internet services, widespread cheating in exams, and lack of access to digital devices, online learning adversely affected the quality of education. Teachers experienced mounting physical and mental health issues due to stress of adjusting to online platforms without any or minimal ICT training and longer working hours to meet the demands of shifting responsibilities. A positive correlation was found between working hours and mental and physical health problems.

The long-term impact of COVID-19 pandemic on both the education system and the teachers would become clear only with time. Meanwhile, this study sheds light on some of the issues that teachers are facing and needs to be addressed without further ado. These findings will provide direction to the policy makers to develop sound strategies to address existing gaps for the successful implementation of digital learning. However, researchers should continue to investigate the longer-term effects of COVID pandemic on online education.

Supporting information

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Measuring the Impact of the Coronavirus on Teachers, Students and Schools

Education officials are assessing and untangling all the ways schools have been reporting data and making decisions and filtering them into common metrics and a usable format.

Measuring the Virus’ Impact on Schools

impact of covid 19 on teachers essay

Ross D. Franklin | AP

A teaching assistant works in an empty classroom as she monitors a remote learning class at the Valencia Newcomer School, Sept. 2, 2020, in Phoenix.

The Biden administration is set to give educators and school leaders the very thing that the previous administration refused them: a centralized data collection to help them understand the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on students and teachers alongside the status of in-person learning for schools and districts across the country.

The directive, which was included in an executive order signed by the president last week and falls to the Institute of Education Sciences to facilitate, is part of the Biden administration's sprawling plan to curb COVID-19 in the U.S. and get the country's economy and school systems back up and running. It's a herculean task, given the country's 13,000 school districts have, for the most part, been going it alone for the last 10 months, operating without any substantive guidance from state or federal officials.

What that means, practically speaking, for Education Department officials tasked with the job is a top-to-bottom assessment and untangling of all the different ways schools have been collecting and reporting data and making decisions about how to operate, filtering it all into common metrics and spitting it out in a usable format to help meet Biden's ambitious goal of getting K-8 schools open in his first 100 days.

The Best Cartoons on Education

impact of covid 19 on teachers essay

"You have 13,000 local data systems," says Paige Kowalski, executive vice president of the Data Quality Campaign. "And because 13,000 school districts came up with their own response plan, you have 13,000 different ways of defining what in-person or hybrid is, or on grade level, or off-track."

The initial scramble was understandable, Kowalski says, because the country was in an emergency situation. But the Trump administration, and specifically former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, said it wasn't the federal government's responsibility to establish any kind of data collection about reopening plans and coronavirus cases in schools – despite school leaders begging for it.

"There was a real missed opportunity to spend the summer getting this together so that you had guidance for states and districts to start counting things in a comparable and consistent way and then aggregating that information up to the national level so that Congress can come back and begin to solve the problem," Kowalski says.

"And we don't know [how to solve the problem]," she continues, "because we did not collect in a common, consistent way locally and we did not have a mechanism to push that data up and aggregate it. And because we didn't do that, there is also no ability to disaggregate it back down to understand the disparate impacts across economic, geographic and racial and ethnic indicators."

"The fact that we lost 10 months is huge."

The overwhelming sense is that Education Department officials should not start from scratch. A handful of education policy organizations, groups that represent educators and superintendents and even education technology companies have been trying to build out databases tracking various metrics of the pandemic's impact on education.

The Center on Reinventing Public Education has been tracking how schools are operating since last March. Additionally, AASA, the School Superintendents association, has been working with Emily Oster, an economics professor at Brown University, to build a database that tracks COVID-19 infection rates in school districts. And NWEA, the nonprofit provider of assessment solutions, has been trying to capture the amount of academic learning loss, while the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers have been tracking educator layoffs – to name just a few of the ongoing efforts.

"We and others have a start on this," says Robin Lake, who has been overseeing the database curated by researchers at the Center for Reinventing Public Education, where she is the director. "It will be important to build on that. We can't waste time."

But there's a big question about exactly what metrics need to be part of the data collection, not to mention how department officials plan to patch together the various efforts.

Lake says it would make sense if the Biden administration required states to report monthly data on all their districts' operational statuses because that data, which is embedded with federal codes, would allow department officials to know for sure how many districts and schools are open and whether the administration is meeting its goals for reopening.

It will also be important, she says, to know what assessments and instructional strategies districts are using to understand and address academic learning loss.

[ MAP: The Spread of Coronavirus ]

The database should also include the number of adult and student COVID-19 cases as well as the various health measures districts are employing so that district leaders can learn quickly how effective those measures are, Lake says.

Others agree.

"You cannot have a database on reopening in the face of a pandemic without including infection rates because the decision to reopen should in large part be driven by what we know about the rates," says Noelle Ellerson Ng, associate executive director of advocacy and policy at AASA, the School Superintendents Association.

But some school superintendents, Ellerson Ng says, have voiced concerns about a database being unintentionally weaponized at the federal level by, for example, being built into accountability metrics or creating a rubric that labels schools red, yellow or green based on their opening status.

"We don't think that's the Biden administration's intent at all," Ellerson Ng says. "But we also do understand the proclivity of the federal government to say, 'Well look at this comprehensive set of data. We know it helps inform the reopening of schools, but perhaps it could also help us evaluate this,' or 'Let's build it into this accountability metric. Superintendents have no patience for that."

Lawmakers might assume, for example, that students in school districts that didn't reopen for in-person learning accrued more learning loss and, therefore, might want to focus funding on those districts to make up for the academic loss. But in doing so, they might completely overlook the fact that it took an incredible amount of resources for other school districts to do the heavy lifting required to reopen, and they need additional funding to keep going.

"You could find two similarly situated districts, and one just had a different political capacity to open and both still incurred the same types of cost," Ellerson Ng says.

Many also worry about the burden of additional reporting requirements, and whether they'll be asked to duplicate what they may already be reporting to the state.

"They need to think through how the reporting is going to be done," Ellerson Ng says. "It's really hard to see a scenario where this data is reported without it being another thing at the local level. Is a federal data set going to draw from existing state databases? Or is the federal government instead going to incentivize states to create datasets with parameters of what works and what doesn't?"

Because of the local nature of education and the number of stakeholders with their hands in the pot, the effort is bound to get political quickly, especially when it comes to defining certain metrics.

"There are a lot of politics in definitions and in numerators and denominators, because when the numbers come out the finger pointing begins and the scramble for resources begins," Kowalski says. "The actors involved want to make sure the definitions and the numerators and denominators favor them."

For example, if one school district has 100% of its students in hybrid learning and another district has 50% of its students in hybrid learning, you might draw a conclusion from that. But if students who are in the 100% hybrid learning district are only in school one time a week, and students in the 50% hybrid learning district are in the building three times a week, the latter is actually offering more in-person learning.

Similarly, it's not as simple as asking who has the internet at home. The equally important question is: Does that internet have the capacity to support remote learning needs, and is it fast enough to support, for example, two children and an adult working from home?

"That's why definitions are so important," Kowalski says. "If we rush too much, we are going to collect data that is not consistent. It might be timely, but it won't be consistent and, therefore, it will lack a certain quality and limit the types of decisions we can make from it and the types of insights we can draw from it."

One question that looms large for school leaders and education policy and data experts is just how comprehensive the data collection will be – whether it will be a quick effort to get schools reopen as fast as possible or whether it will lay the groundwork for an in-depth analysis of the repercussions of the pandemic.

"When I see the words, 'fully understand the impact of the pandemic on students and educators,'" says Kowalski, referencing the language in the executive order, "to me that says create capacity and don't let this be a one-off. Otherwise, it's kind of a waste."

"A one-off data collection saying how many students have the internet is an important question to ask – maybe the most important question out there right now – but that won't help us in four years," she says. "And we have to think of the long game here. We will be answering questions and solving the effects of this pandemic for decades."

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Tags: Coronavirus , pandemic , education , health , public health , Joe Biden , Department of Education , K-12 education , United States

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Original research article, impacts of the covid-19 pandemic on student learning and opportunity gaps across the 2020–2021 school year: a national survey of teachers.

impact of covid 19 on teachers essay

  • 1 School of Education, University of Delaware, Newark, DE, United States
  • 2 Department of Teaching, Learning, and Culture, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, United States
  • 3 School of Education, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA, United States
  • 4 Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE, United States

Although many school districts made efforts to provide instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic (including in-person, remote, and blended/hybrid options the length of instruction time and delivery models have varied from district to district. This disruption in education has been projected to result in a significant learning loss, which may be particularly profound for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, leading to widening opportunity gaps. However, there is limited empirical data that can provide important contextual background for understanding the impact of the pandemic on student learning. Therefore, we conducted a national survey with a random sample of 582 elementary school teachers to understand the instructional changes that occurred, the amount of academic content instruction provided to students, and teachers perceptions of the learning supports needed and provided to students during the 2020–2021 school year. Results indicated that most teachers relied on alternative forms of instruction and experienced changes in delivery models but reported low instructional effectiveness. Compared to typical years, teachers reported significant decreases in curriculum coverage; the number of students who received needed interventions, and students who were ready to transition to the next grade level during the 2020–2021 school year. Teachers also reported greater impacts on instruction for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Follow-up analyses using prior school achievement data corroborated the findings that higher school achievement was associated with smaller impacts on student learning and delivery of instruction.


Many school districts were forced to temporarily close schools in spring 2020 during the COVID-19 crisis. This marked one of the largest disruptions to education in history, forcing more than 1.6 billion children out of school in the United States and affecting 95% of school-aged children worldwide ( United Nations, 2020 ; Kaffenberger, 2021 ). Although many schools attempted to provide remote instruction during the spring of 2020, estimates suggest that between 7.2 and 11.6 million K-5 students also may not have received remote instruction ( Goodrich et al., 2022 ).

In the 2020–2021 school year, school districts adapted to the pandemic by developing a variety of instructional models to reach students, including remote learning, blended/hybrid learning, and in-person learning, with some school districts implementing multiple models for various lengths of time. Despite the strong efforts of schools and teachers, these delivery models may not have provided the same quality of education compared to instruction prior to the pandemic for several reasons. Schools that returned to in-person learning faced frequent student absences and staff shortages due to the COVID related quarantines. For schools that opted to provide alternate forms of learning, many teachers, parents, and students had to make quick transitions without strong supports in place (e.g., technology support, student engagement strategies; Stanistreet et al., 2020 ).

To estimate the potential impact of the COVID-19 school closures on student learning (e.g., Dorn et al., 2020 ; Kuhfeld et al., 2020 ; Kaffenberger, 2021 ), some researchers have projected learning losses based on estimates from typical school closures, such as summer breaks. With some variability in the estimates of the summer learning loss (0.001 to 0.01 SD learning loss per day out of school), prior research indicated student achievement slows down or even declines over the summer breaks (e.g., von Hippel et al., 2018 ; Kuhfeld, 2019 ). Based on these estimates, Kuhfeld et al. (2020) projected that students who did not have access to remote instruction (3 months) in spring 2020 would begin fall 2020 with only 37% to 68% of typical learning gains in reading and mathematics, and some students may be up to one year behind in mathematics. Even students who received remote instruction in spring 2020 were projected to begin fall 2020 with 60% to 87% of their typical learning gains.

However, these numbers may underestimate the problem to some degree. The assumption is that learning losses could be similar to losses experienced during other breaks from school. However, instructional challenges related to COVID-19 are also likely to have resulted in less content coverage when school has been in session, compounding the losses. In addition, differential access to technology and remote instruction during COVID-19 school closures are projected to exacerbate the impacts of the pandemic for some populations, widening SES-based opportunity gaps. The learning losses are expected to be greatest among low-income students because students from high SES schools were estimated to receive more remote instruction than students from low SES schools ( Kuhfeld et al., 2020 ). Even when students from low SES schools were able to access remote instruction, they were less likely to have the same high-quality remote learning or supportive environments (e.g., parental academic supervision, space with minimal distraction; Dorn et al., 2020 ). Dorn et al. (2020) projected that low-income students would experience 12.4 months of learning loss compared to the overall average learning loss of 6.8 months, exacerbating the existing opportunity gaps by 15% to 20%.

Some researchers have suggested that the short-term learning losses due to the pandemic may be cumulative and result in larger and permanent learning losses (e.g., Dorn et al., 2020 ; Kaffenberger, 2021 ). Dorn et al. (2020) estimated that the pandemic is likely to lead to higher high-school dropout rates (i.e., 2–9% increase to the current 5% rate) due to decreased academic engagement and achievement, and disruptions to supports that can help students stay in school (e.g., community support, youth-serving organizations), leading to long-term economic issues. Kaffenberger (2021) reported that learning loss in grade 3 would accumulate and result in students performing 1 to 1.5 years lower in grade 10. He also estimated that short-term remediation efforts (e.g., teachers covering 1/2 of grade 3 curriculum in grade 4 and reverting to the pre-pandemic curriculum and instructional levels by grade 5) would reduce the long-term learning loss to one-half of a school year. The long-term remediation efforts (e.g., identifying students’ learning levels via formative assessments, adapting teacher instructions) were estimated to fully mitigate the learning loss. That said, the pandemic is still on-going (with some school closures occurring again in early 2022 due to COVID-19 variants), and it is unlikely that schools and teachers were able to cover the same amount of content in the 2020–2021 school year as in typical years, or that they were able to provide the same levels of support to students from minoritized and disadvantaged populations that they do in typical years.

Despite these projections, the empirical data to evaluate the actual impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on student learning is limited. Engzell et al. (2021) used national assessments conducted before (January to February) and after (June) the COVID-19 lockdown in the Netherlands. They compared student progress in mathematics, reading, and spelling on the national assessments during 2020 to student progress in the three previous years. Results indicated a learning loss equivalent to 3 percentile points despite the relatively short lockdown. However, the learning loss was up to 60% greater among students from disadvantaged backgrounds (i.e., students from less-educated households), indicating the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on student learning. Similarly, achievement scores on state assessments for students in grades 4 to 8 in 17 school districts in Illinois indicated that students scored significantly lower than expected in mathematics compared to prior to the pandemic, resulting in a learning losses as large as 56% of a school year ( Streich et al., 2021 ). Furthermore, special education status, English language learner status, and eligibility for free/reduced price lunch were associated with greater learning losses in mathematics among middle school students.

Taken together, although prior research has shown varying levels of impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on student learning, it is evident that student learning was disrupted, leading to short-term and long-term detrimental effects on student achievement and educational attainment. Prior research also suggests that this learning loss may be particularly profound for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, leading to widening opportunity gaps. However, the current literature and our understanding of the impact of the pandemic on student learning is primarily based on model-based projections and limited empirical data comparing student performance prior to and after the lockdown. Detailed empirical data that can provide important contextual background for understanding the impact of the pandemic on student learning are missing.

Therefore, the purpose of the present study was to understand the instructional changes that occurred during the 2020–2021 school year and their impact on student learning from a national sample of elementary school teachers. Additionally, we sought information from teachers regarding the amount of academic content instruction provided to students and teachers’ perceptions of the learning supports needed and provided to students across the 2020–2021 school year. Furthermore, we aimed to explore whether teacher reported changes were related to prior school achievement data.

Materials and Methods


For survey distribution, we obtained a representative random sample of K-5 educator email addresses that was proportionally reflective of the number of teachers in each grade (K-5) as well as representative of the distribution of the United States population across different geographic regions survey distribution from Market Data Retrieval (MDR). We made sure that only one teacher from each school was selected to maximize the number of schools. We calculated the total number of respondents ( N = 382) needed to achieve a margin of error of ± 5.0% with a 95% confidence interval ( Dillman, 2000 ). After excluding 289 invalid email address, we sent 9,476 teachers the invitation to complete the survey. Of those, 595 teachers provided consent, and 13 teachers who did not answer any questions were later excluded. The final sample consisted of 582 teachers, providing this survey with a ± 4.1% margin of error with a 95% confidence interval.

Stanford Education Data Archive (SEDA; Reardon et al., 2021 ) provides demographics (e.g., region, gender, socioeconomic status, race) and academic achievement data (e.g., mathematics, English language arts) for all tested students in grades 3–8 in public schools across the United States averaged over the 2008–2009 to 2017–2018 school years. SEDA school-level mean mathematics and English language arts achievement data were available for 490 teachers, and covariate data were available for 515 teachers who responded to our survey. Given the lower than anticipated response rate (6.14%), we compared teachers who did and did not respond to the survey to ensure the generalizability of our findings. After correcting for Type I error rate, there were some statistically significant differences by geographic region. The Mid-Atlantic and South-Central regions were significantly under-represented in survey responders, whereas the Mountain and North-Central regions were significantly over-represented among survey responders. There were no other significant differences. We also compared our sample of teachers to national teacher demographics reported by the National Center for Educational Statistics ( Hussar et al., 2020 ). Overall, our sample approximated the national averages in terms of gender and race. However, teachers with over 20 years of teaching experience were over-represented in our samples (32.3%) compared to the national average (22.4%).

Survey Questions

We created and administered the survey using the Qualtrics electronic survey platform. The survey consisted of 59 items. The first eight questions were on demographics of teachers and students in their classrooms. Next, teachers answered questions about the instructional model(s) used by their schools. Additionally, we asked questions related to student progress and instruction in three specific academic content areas: reading, mathematics, and writing. The questions included the amount of planned curriculum teachers were able to cover, percentage of students needing extra support in each academic area, percentage of students who did not receive needed support for each academic area during the 2020–2021 school year compared to typical years prior to the COVID pandemic, and whether these changes were due to the pandemic. Teachers also rated the negative impacts the pandemic had on students overall, as well as on subpopulations of students (i.e., students from low-income backgrounds, students with IEPs, students who are English language learners). They also rated their perceived effectiveness of remote instruction. Finally, teachers answered questions about their opinions regarding the effectiveness of instruction during the pandemic.

Overall, our respondents had a mean of 15.44 years of teaching experience ( SD = 9.65) and a mean of 23 students in their class ( SD = 9.51) at the time of the survey. The majority (80.2%) reported having less than 20% of students with IEPs in their classroom. Similarly, 79.5% of teachers reported having classrooms with less than 20% English language learners.

Descriptive Analysis

Instructional model.

Figure 1 shows the instructional models teachers reported for their schools at the start and end of the 2020–2021 school year. At the start of the school year, most schools offered either 100% remote instruction (46.7%) or in-person instruction with an option for remote instruction (30.9%). Approximately 12.1% of schools offered hybrid, and only 8.6% of schools offered 100% in-person instruction. However, approximately 60% of teachers experienced a change in their instructional model from the beginning to the end of the school year. At the end of the school year, most schools offered in-person instruction with an option for remote instruction (65.2%), followed by 100% in-person (16.5%), hybrid (13.0%), and 100% remote (2.6%) instruction. Thus, the number of schools offering 100% in-person or in-person instruction with an option for remote instruction doubled from the beginning to the end of the 2020–2021 school year.


Figure 1. Teacher-reported school instructional models.

More specifically, 64.7% of teachers indicated that their instruction was 100% in person at least part of the 2020–2021 school year whereas 35.3% of teachers indicated that they never offered 100% in-person instruction. Among teachers who reported using a 100% in-person instructional model for at least part of the year, the percentage of the school year for which their school provided 100% in-person instruction varied: less than 20% of the school year (16.3%), between 21 and 40% (19.3%), between 41 and 60% of the year (15.2%), between 80 and 99% (15.8%), and 100% (19.0%).

Student Progress and Instruction in Academic Content Areas

Curriculum coverage.

Overall, teachers reported a significant decrease in the amount of planned curriculum they were able to cover in academic content areas (i.e., reading, mathematics, and writing) during the 2020–2021 school year compared to typical years. Figure 2 shows the percentage of planned curriculum teachers were able to cover in each academic area. During typical years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 93.3% of teachers indicated that they were able to cover more than 80% of planned curriculum in reading compared to only 43.8% of teachers during the 2020–2021 school year. In other words, more than half the teachers who responded to the survey (56.3%) were not able to cover 80% of their planned reading curriculum during the 2020–2021 school year, compared to only 6.7% of teachers during typical years. This pattern of findings was similar for mathematics. Only 53.2% of teachers reported that they were able to cover more than 80% of their planned curriculum in mathematics compared to 92.8% of teachers in typical years. For writing, about 30.9% of teachers indicated that they were able to cover more than 80% of planned curriculum during the 2020–2021 school year compared to 79.5% of teachers during typical years. Most teachers (85.4%) indicated that this change in their ability to cover the curriculum during the 2020–2021 school year was due to the pandemic. Other reasons reported by 4.8% of teachers included student absences, having a new administration team, and other natural disasters in addition to the pandemic.


Figure 2. Percentage of curriculum covered in each academic area.

Students Needing Extra Support/Intervention

Teachers indicated that fewer students who needed extra support and/or intervention in academic content areas actually received the support during the 2020–2021 school year compared to typical years. During typical years, teachers reported students were able to receive extra support/intervention they needed in reading (74.9%), mathematics (71.2%), and writing (70.2%). However, there was a significant decrease in the percentage of teachers who indicated that students received the needed support during the 2020–2021 school year: 44.3% in reading, 49.2% in mathematics, and 41.9% in writing.

Student Readiness for Transition

Teachers reported fewer students were ready to transition to the next grade level at the end of 2020–2021 school year compared to typical years (see Figure 3 ). Whereas 68.9% of teachers indicated at least 80% of their students being ready to transition to the next grade in typical years, only about 31.9% of teachers reported at least 80% of their students were ready to transition to the next grade at the end of the 2020–2021 school year. About 29.4% of teachers indicated that less than 60% of their students were ready to transition to the next grade level compared to only 4.5% of teachers indicating less than 60% of their students ready to transition in typical years. The majority of teachers (65.5%) indicated that this drop in the percentage of students ready to transition to the next grade was due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A small portion of respondents (6.2%) indicated other reasons, which included a lack of student participation, lack of teacher knowledge, and lack of high-quality instruction.


Figure 3. Percentage of students ready to transition to next grade.

Subpopulations of Students

Teachers rated the impact of the pandemic on their delivery of academic skills instruction on a 0 (no impact, delivery of academic instruction was typical) to 10 (high impact, students missed significant instructional time, delivery of instruction was very challenging, many students are behind) scale. Overall, the mean rating was 6.67 ( SD = 2.64), indicating a moderate to large impact of the pandemic on teachers’ delivery of academic instruction. Teachers indicated significantly greater impacts for students from low-income backgrounds ( M = 7.74, SD = 2.59) compared to those who were not from low-income backgrounds ( M = 4.83, SD = 2.59), t (457) = 24.04, p < 0.001. Teachers also rated significantly greater impacts for students with IEPs ( M = 7.43, SD = 2.90) compared to those without IEPs ( M = 5.51, SD = 2.71), t (455) = 15.64, p < 0.001. Finally, teachers rated significantly greater impacts for English language learners ( M = 7.31, SD = 2.88) compared to non-English language learners ( M = 5.45, SD = 2.84), t (389) = 13.78, p < 0.001.

Overall, teachers rated that remote instruction was significantly less effective for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Teachers rated remote instruction being more effective for students who were not from low-income backgrounds ( M = 5.66, SD = 2.51) compared to students from low-income backgrounds ( M = 4.13, SD = 3.02), t (432) = −10.17, p < 0.001. Teachers also rated that remote instruction was more effective for students without IEPs ( M = 5.45, SD = 2.43) than it was for those with IEPs ( M = 3.84, SD = 3.05), t (421) = −11.22, p < 0.001. Lastly, teachers rated that remote instruction was significantly more effective for students who were not English language learners ( M = 5.45, SD = 2.53) compared to English language learners ( M = 3.92, SD = 3.05), t (356) = −9.13, p < 0.001.

Inferential Analysis

Zero-order correlations.

Our third research question focused on the relations between school achievement indexed by SEDA and various survey questions, including use of a 100% in-person instructional model, percentage of students ready to transition to the next grade level in Spring 2021, overall impact of the pandemic on academic skills instruction, and the impact of the pandemic on teachers’ ability to cover the curriculum and provide intervention for specific academic skills. There was a small correlation between school achievement and the percentage of time in which a 100% in-person instructional model was used ( r = 0.19, p < 0.001), indicating higher achieving schools provided 100% in-person instruction more often than low achieving schools.

School achievement was moderately negatively correlated with overall ratings of the impact of the pandemic ( r = −0.29, p < 0.001) and with teacher-reported impacts of the pandemic on the percentage of students ready to transition to the next grade level ( r = −0.30, p < 0.001). This pattern of results indicated that teachers at higher achieving schools reported fewer negative effects of the pandemic, and teachers at higher achieving schools reported smaller differences in the number of students ready to transition to the next grade level between the 2020 and 2021 school year and typical years prior to the pandemic. School achievement was also correlated with teacher-reported impacts of the pandemic on specific academic content areas, but these correlations were small ( r s range from −0.11 to −0.19, all p s < 0.05). There were small correlations between the percent of the year a 100% in-person instructional model was used and teacher-reported impacts of the pandemic ( r s range from −0.18 to −0.22, all p s < 0.001), indicating that teachers who used more in-person instruction reported smaller impacts of the pandemic on their ability to cover the curriculum and the percentage of students who needed supplemental intervention for academic skills instruction.

Regression Analysis

To further evaluate our third research question, we examined predictors of the overall impact of the pandemic and the amount of the curriculum that was covered in reading, writing, and mathematics in the 2020–2021 school year, including SEDA school mean achievement and percentage of time in which a 100% in-person instructional model was used. Regression models predicting amount of curriculum covered in the 2020–2021 school year controlled for teacher reports of the amount of curriculum covered in typical years. Results are presented in Table 1 . We note that negative correlations for overall impact indicate that more in-person instruction and higher achieving schools experienced fewer negative effects of the pandemic. Positive correlations for coverage of reading, writing, and mathematics curriculum indicate that more in-person instruction and higher achieving schools were associated with covering more of the planned curriculum for academic skills. Both school achievement and percentage of time using a 100% in-person instructional model were significantly predictive of overall impacts of the pandemic and teacher reported coverage of the reading, writing, and mathematics curriculum, even after controlling for teacher reported coverage of the curriculum in typical years. Higher school achievement and more use of a 100% in-person instructional model were associated with smaller negative impacts of the pandemic and greater coverage of academic curricula.


Table 1. Standardized regression coefficients predicting overall impact and coverage of curriculum.

Finally, we used logistic regression analysis to examine whether SEDA school achievement and percentage of time using a 100% in-person instructional model predicted whether there were students who needed extra intervention in reading, writing, and mathematics but did not receive it in the 2020–2021 school year, after controlling for whether there were students who needed extra intervention but did not receive it in typical years. These results are presented in Table 2 . Use of a 100% in-person instructional model was only significant for mathematics, indicating that teachers who reported using more 100% in-person instruction were less likely to report having students who needed extra mathematics intervention but did not receive it; however, the magnitude of this effect was small. In contrast, higher achieving schools were significantly less likely than lower achieving schools to have students who needed additional intervention but did not receive it, even after controlling for students needing but not receiving intervention in typical years.


Table 2. Logistic regression models predicting whether students who needed additional supports for academic skills did not receive them.

Successes and Challenges of Instruction

For questions related to the successes and challenges of remote and in-person instruction during the 2020–2021 school year, teachers were allowed to indicate multiple items (i.e., check all that apply). Teachers indicated that having a lower teacher-student ratio would contribute to successful remote instruction (61.7%) followed by the structures and scheduling of remote instruction (52.6%), training opportunities (45%), and support personnel (e.g., paraprofessionals, 38.5%). The majority of other responses included having parental support at home and students’ access to better technology (internet access, remote instruction platform support), and having a teacher dedicated to remote instruction.

Teachers also indicated that distractions in students’ homes (71.1%), internet access/availability (61.0%), student attendance (60.8%), lack of face-to-face interactions with students (57.7%), difficulty with evaluating student work (55.7%), difficulty with monitoring student progress (48.8%), managing remote and in-person instruction simultaneously (42.6%), and difficulty with providing feedback on student work (40.7%) as challenges associated with delivering remote instruction. Other challenges included a lack of parental support/involvement, lack of student engagement, and parents or other household members completing student assignments or assessments.

Despite these challenges, teachers indicated that some positive takeaways during the 2020–2021 school year were students being more conscientious (68.6%), greater ability to provide individualized attention due to reduced class sizes or alternating days (21.6%), and more time for students to participate in academics due to reductions in extracurricular activities (21.1%). About 24.6% of teachers indicated that there were no positive takeaways from the 2020–2021 school year.

The results of this survey provide important context about the instructional models used by schools during the 2020–2021 school year, how content coverage may compound issues related to learning losses in academic areas, and factors that may be related to the ability of schools to cover content and support students. Several studies have demonstrated that student achievement has been lower during the pandemic compared to prior to the pandemic, with estimates ranging from three percentile points in the Netherlands ( Engzell et al., 2021 ) to more than half of a school year in the U.S. state of Illinois ( Streich et al., 2021 ). Moreover, students’ academic motivation and participation in extracurricular activities, as perceived by their parents, decreased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic ( Zaccoletti et al., 2020 ).

Yet, the pandemic is not over, and with the continued struggle with the COVID variants in 2022 currently, students may be falling even further behind. The results of this survey suggest that most teachers were not able to cover at least 80% of their reading, writing, and mathematics curriculum, which was significantly lower than their reported ability to cover 80% of the curriculum in previous years. Teachers also clearly indicated that many fewer students were ready to transition to the next grade level at the end of the 2020–2021 school year. Using average reported class sizes and teacher responses for students not ready to transition to the next grade level, we estimated that 32.4% of students were not ready to transition, as compared to 13.9% in previous years (an increase of 18.5%). With 21.2 million K-5 students attending school in 2020 ( National Center for Education Statistics, 2021 ), this means nearly 3.9 million more students (6.8 million total) were not ready to transition to the next grade, with likely disproportionate impacts on minoritized students.

Our findings also indicated that many students who needed extra support/intervention in the academic content areas did not receive needed support in the 2020–2021 school year. This is alarming because it has likely compounded learning losses already realized during school shutdowns in spring of 2020, and some schools still may not be fully covering the academic curriculum in the 2021–2022 school year. This suggests there will be long term and compounded effects if teachers continue to have difficulty implementing the full curriculum. Therefore, our findings call for immediate recovery efforts.

Kaffenberger (2021) projected that short-term (e.g., covering previous year’s curriculum before revering to the pre-pandemic curriculum) and long-term efforts (e.g., identifying students’ needs using formative assessments, adapting teacher instruction to students’ levels and needs) can reduce/remediate the learning loss. Therefore, substantial restructuring of current pre-pandemic curricula may be inevitable to minimize the compounded effects. In addition, some states have initiated alternative ways to offer additional instruction (e.g., Tennessee Tutoring Coprs). Continued efforts should be made to find alternative and innovative ways to provide additional learning opportunities to remediate the learning loss. Beyond the immediate educational needs, Fusco et al. (2021) suggested providing career support for students to better prepare them for the economic crisis and changes following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our survey results indicated that most teachers relied on alternative forms of instruction and experienced changes during the 2020–2021 school year. Yet, the overall rating for teacher-reported effectiveness of remote instruction was low ( M = 4.74). This finding suggests that continued development of high-quality online educational learning and support is also needed. Moreover, Zhu and Liu (2020) called for more quantitative and qualitative research to evaluate remote teaching and learning, and long-term sustainability. Consistent with teachers’ reports in our survey, as well as in Goodrich et al. (2022) , more systematic training for school personnel is needed to improve the quality of remote instruction. Additionally, prior studies have found that family, school, and peer support increases student engagement, which in turn improves academic competence and achievement (e.g., Elias and Haynes, 2008 ; Estell and Perdue, 2013 ). As much as in-person school engagement is important to academic achievement and school completion, student engagement during remote instruction may be critical to promoting successful remote learning. Teachers who responded to our survey did note a lack of student engagement and parental support/involvement as a challenge to providing remote instruction. Such support from family, school, and peers may be especially important for students from disadvantaged backgrounds ( Elias and Haynes, 2008 ).

Our survey results also add to the growing literature that the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on academic learning have disproportionately affected low-income students, minoritized students, and students with disabilities (see Dorn et al., 2020 ; Goodrich et al., 2022 ). In the current survey, teachers reported greater impacts of the pandemic on academic instruction for students with IEPs, low-income students, and English language learners. Our regression analyses corroborate these findings across schools as well, as higher school achievement was associated with smaller negative impacts on the curriculum coverage and fewer students requiring additional intervention. Our results also indicate that teachers in higher performing schools did not have to alter their instruction as much as teachers in lower performing schools. This may have played a role in the reported curriculum coverage and associated learning losses, as our results indicated that the amount of in-person instruction significantly contributed to teachers’ ability to cover the curriculum. These findings are important to consider when allocating resources for pandemic recovery efforts. Moreover, the COVID-19 induced economic damage and educational budget cuts are likely to have a greater impact on students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Recovery efforts should be considered carefully, so that they do not reinforce existing inequalities.

Our findings also add to the literature in an important way by providing teachers with an opportunity to identify other factors that may have contributed to their ability to cover the curricula and support their students. This can offer Federal and State Departments of Education with areas of opportunity for providing teachers with support, funding, or intervention resources. For example, teachers consistently reported that personnel and training resources can contribute to better implementation of instruction (including remote instruction). Solutions might include increasing the number of paraprofessionals to assist with instruction and/or providing training opportunities to teachers and paraprofessionals.

Positive Take-Aways and Potential Solutions

Approximately 75% of teachers indicated that there were also some positives that came out of the pandemic, including increases in student conscientiousness, prioritization of some academic content, and systems that resulted in more individual attention. Policymakers and administrators may want to consider thinking more flexibly about school schedules and supports for teachers and students moving forward. Alternating days for instruction for students to reduce class sizes may not be desirable or feasible in the long-term, but there may be other creative approaches to continue capitalize on the benefits of smaller student groupings, such as staggering start and end times for the school day.


The samples of teachers who completed our surveys were generally representative of the population of teachers in the United States However, a large percentage of teachers did not respond to the surveys. Although responders and non-responders were similar in key demographic variables (e.g., SES, school setting, school type, grade level taught), it is possible that low response rate resulted in selection bias. It is also possible that the teachers may have under- or over-estimated other descriptive variables for their classrooms or were unaware of some of the school services provided by resource and special education teachers.

Implications and Conclusion

Schools in the United States have a large problem on their hands. Along with learning losses, many teachers report not covering as much of the academic curricula for students, especially in schools with lower achievement levels. This is an ongoing problem that is likely to be exacerbated, and it will likely continue to widen the opportunity gaps for minoritized students, low-income students, and students with disabilities. Policymakers, school administrators, and teachers must be cognizant of the challenges with implementing instruction consistently to adequately cover the necessary content each year, and even increase the content coverage and student support to accelerate recovery efforts. Of course, these considerations need to be weighed against public health safety, which is an important factor in deciding which educational models to implement. It will also be important for educational decision makers to consider these teacher report findings when allocating recovery resources, such as prioritizing lower achieving schools and students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Data Availability Statement

The raw data supporting the conclusions of this article will be made available by the authors, without undue reservation.

Ethics Statement

The studies involving human participants were reviewed and approved by IRB at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The patients/participants provided their written informed consent to participate in this study.

Author Contributions

JN, JG, MH, and NK were equally responsible for the conduct of this research. All authors helped formulate the research questions to be included in surveys, assisted with survey distribution, data cleaning and analysis, and writing survey results for publication.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Publisher’s Note

All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article, or claim that may be made by its manufacturer, is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.

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Keywords : COVID-19, survey research, elementary school, academic instruction, opportunity gaps

Citation: Namkung JM, Goodrich JM, Hebert M and Koziol N (2022) Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Student Learning and Opportunity Gaps Across the 2020–2021 School Year: A National Survey of Teachers. Front. Educ. 7:921497. doi: 10.3389/feduc.2022.921497

Received: 15 April 2022; Accepted: 10 June 2022; Published: 07 July 2022.

Reviewed by:

Copyright © 2022 Namkung, Goodrich, Hebert and Koziol. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) . The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Jessica M. Namkung, [email protected]

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  • Published: 27 September 2021

Why lockdown and distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to increase the social class achievement gap

  • Sébastien Goudeau   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-7293-0977 1 ,
  • Camille Sanrey   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0003-3158-1306 1 ,
  • Arnaud Stanczak   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-2596-1516 2 ,
  • Antony Manstead   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-7540-2096 3 &
  • Céline Darnon   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0003-2613-689X 2  

Nature Human Behaviour volume  5 ,  pages 1273–1281 ( 2021 ) Cite this article

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The COVID-19 pandemic has forced teachers and parents to quickly adapt to a new educational context: distance learning. Teachers developed online academic material while parents taught the exercises and lessons provided by teachers to their children at home. Considering that the use of digital tools in education has dramatically increased during this crisis, and it is set to continue, there is a pressing need to understand the impact of distance learning. Taking a multidisciplinary view, we argue that by making the learning process rely more than ever on families, rather than on teachers, and by getting students to work predominantly via digital resources, school closures exacerbate social class academic disparities. To address this burning issue, we propose an agenda for future research and outline recommendations to help parents, teachers and policymakers to limit the impact of the lockdown on social-class-based academic inequality.

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The widespread effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that emerged in 2019–2020 have drastically increased health, social and economic inequalities 1 , 2 . For more than 900 million learners around the world, the pandemic led to the closure of schools and universities 3 . This exceptional situation forced teachers, parents and students to quickly adapt to a new educational context: distance learning. Teachers had to develop online academic materials that could be used at home to ensure educational continuity while ensuring the necessary physical distancing. Primary and secondary school students suddenly had to work with various kinds of support, which were usually provided online by their teachers. For college students, lockdown often entailed returning to their hometowns while staying connected with their teachers and classmates via video conferences, email and other digital tools. Despite the best efforts of educational institutions, parents and teachers to keep all children and students engaged in learning activities, ensuring educational continuity during school closure—something that is difficult for everyone—may pose unique material and psychological challenges for working-class families and students.

Not only did the pandemic lead to the closure of schools in many countries, often for several weeks, it also accelerated the digitalization of education and amplified the role of parental involvement in supporting the schoolwork of their children. Thus, beyond the specific circumstances of the COVID-19 lockdown, we believe that studying the effects of the pandemic on academic inequalities provides a way to more broadly examine the consequences of school closure and related effects (for example, digitalization of education) on social class inequalities. Indeed, bearing in mind that (1) the risk of further pandemics is higher than ever (that is, we are in a ‘pandemic era’ 4 , 5 ) and (2) beyond pandemics, the use of digital tools in education (and therefore the influence of parental involvement) has dramatically increased during this crisis, and is set to continue, there is a pressing need for an integrative and comprehensive model that examines the consequences of distance learning. Here, we propose such an integrative model that helps us to understand the extent to which the school closures associated with the pandemic amplify economic, digital and cultural divides that in turn affect the psychological functioning of parents, students and teachers in a way that amplifies academic inequalities. Bringing together research in social sciences, ranging from economics and sociology to social, cultural, cognitive and educational psychology, we argue that by getting students to work predominantly via digital resources rather than direct interactions with their teachers, and by making the learning process rely more than ever on families rather than teachers, school closures exacerbate social class academic disparities.

First, we review research showing that social class is associated with unequal access to digital tools, unequal familiarity with digital skills and unequal uses of such tools for learning purposes 6 , 7 . We then review research documenting how unequal familiarity with school culture, knowledge and skills can also contribute to the accentuation of academic inequalities 8 , 9 . Next, we present the results of surveys conducted during the 2020 lockdown showing that the quality and quantity of pedagogical support received from schools varied according to the social class of families (for examples, see refs. 10 , 11 , 12 ). We then argue that these digital, cultural and structural divides represent barriers to the ability of parents to provide appropriate support for children during distance learning (Fig. 1 ). These divides also alter the levels of self-efficacy of parents and children, thereby affecting their engagement in learning activities 13 , 14 . In the final section, we review preliminary evidence for the hypothesis that distance learning widens the social class achievement gap and we propose an agenda for future research. In addition, we outline recommendations that should help parents, teachers and policymakers to use social science research to limit the impact of school closure and distance learning on the social class achievement gap.

figure 1

Economic, structural, digital and cultural divides influence the psychological functioning of parents and students in a way that amplify inequalities.

The digital divide

Unequal access to digital resources.

Although the use of digital technologies is almost ubiquitous in developed nations, there is a digital divide such that some people are more likely than others to be numerically excluded 15 (Fig. 1 ). Social class is a strong predictor of digital disparities, including the quality of hardware, software and Internet access 16 , 17 , 18 . For example, in 2019, in France, around 1 in 5 working-class families did not have personal access to the Internet compared with less than 1 in 20 of the most privileged families 19 . Similarly, in 2020, in the United Kingdom, 20% of children who were eligible for free school meals did not have access to a computer at home compared with 7% of other children 20 . In 2021, in the United States, 41% of working-class families do not own a laptop or desktop computer and 43% do not have broadband compared with 8% and 7%, respectively, of upper/middle-class Americans 21 . A similar digital gap is also evident between lower-income and higher-income countries 22 .

Second, simply having access to a computer and an Internet connection does not ensure effective distance learning. For example, many of the educational resources sent by teachers need to be printed, thereby requiring access to printers. Moreover, distance learning is more difficult in households with only one shared computer compared with those where each family member has their own 23 . Furthermore, upper/middle-class families are more likely to be able to guarantee a suitable workspace for each child than their working-class counterparts 24 .

In the context of school closures, such disparities are likely to have important consequences for educational continuity. In line with this idea, a survey of approximately 4,000 parents in the United Kingdom confirmed that during lockdown, more than half of primary school children from the poorest families did not have access to their own study space and were less well equipped for distance learning than higher-income families 10 . Similarly, a survey of around 1,300 parents in the Netherlands found that during lockdown, children from working-class families had fewer computers at home and less room to study than upper/middle-class children 11 .

Data from non-Western countries highlight a more general digital divide, showing that developing countries have poorer access to digital equipment. For example, in India in 2018, only 10.7% of households possessed a digital device 25 , while in Pakistan in 2020, 31% of higher-education teachers did not have Internet access and 68.4% did not have a laptop 26 . In general, developing countries lack access to digital technologies 27 , 28 , and these difficulties of access are even greater in rural areas (for example, see ref. 29 ). Consequently, school closures have huge repercussions for the continuity of learning in these countries. For example, in India in 2018, only 11% of the rural and 40% of the urban population above 14 years old could use a computer and access the Internet 25 . Time spent on education during school closure decreased by 80% in Bangladesh 30 . A similar trend was observed in other countries 31 , with only 22% of children engaging in remote learning in Kenya 32 and 50% in Burkina Faso 33 . In Ghana, 26–32% of children spent no time at all on learning during the pandemic 34 . Beyond the overall digital divide, social class disparities are also evident in developing countries, with lower access to digital resources among households in which parental educational levels were low (versus households in which parental educational levels were high; for example, see ref. 35 for Nigeria and ref. 31 for Ecuador).

Unequal digital skills

In addition to unequal access to digital tools, there are also systematic variations in digital skills 36 , 37 (Fig. 1 ). Upper/middle-class families are more familiar with digital tools and resources and are therefore more likely to have the digital skills needed for distance learning 38 , 39 , 40 . These digital skills are particularly useful during school closures, both for students and for parents, for organizing, retrieving and correctly using the resources provided by the teachers (for example, sending or receiving documents by email, printing documents or using word processors).

Social class disparities in digital skills can be explained in part by the fact that children from upper/middle-class families have the opportunity to develop digital skills earlier than working-class families 41 . In member countries of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), only 23% of working-class children had started using a computer at the age of 6 years or earlier compared with 43% of upper/middle-class children 42 . Moreover, because working-class people tend to persist less than upper/middle-class people when confronted with digital difficulties 23 , the use of digital tools and resources for distance learning may interfere with the ability of parents to help children with their schoolwork.

Unequal use of digital tools

A third level of digital divide concerns variations in digital tool use 18 , 43 (Fig. 1 ). Upper/middle-class families are more likely to use digital resources for work and education 6 , 41 , 44 , whereas working-class families are more likely to use these resources for entertainment, such as electronic games or social media 6 , 45 . This divide is also observed among students, whereby working-class students tend to use digital technologies for leisure activities, whereas their upper/middle-class peers are more likely to use them for academic activities 46 and to consider that computers and the Internet provide an opportunity for education and training 23 . Furthermore, working-class families appear to regulate the digital practices of their children less 47 and are more likely to allow screens in the bedrooms of children and teenagers without setting limits on times or practices 48 .

In sum, inequalities in terms of digital resources, skills and use have strong implications for distance learning. This is because they make working-class students and parents particularly vulnerable when learning relies on extensive use of digital devices rather than on face-to-face interaction with teachers.

The cultural divide

Even if all three levels of digital divide were closed, upper/middle-class families would still be better prepared than working-class families to ensure educational continuity for their children. Upper/middle-class families are more familiar with the academic knowledge and skills that are expected and valued in educational settings, as well as with the independent, autonomous way of learning that is valued in the school culture and becomes even more important during school closure (Fig. 1 ).

Unequal familiarity with academic knowledge and skills

According to classical social reproduction theory 8 , 49 , school is not a neutral place in which all forms of language and knowledge are equally valued. Academic contexts expect and value culture-specific and taken-for-granted forms of knowledge, skills and ways of being, thinking and speaking that are more in tune with those developed through upper/middle-class socialization (that is, ‘cultural capital’ 8 , 50 , 51 , 52 , 53 ). For instance, academic contexts value interest in the arts, museums and literature 54 , 55 , a type of interest that is more likely to develop through socialization in upper/middle-class families than in working-class socialization 54 , 56 . Indeed, upper/middle-class parents are more likely than working-class parents to engage in activities that develop this cultural capital. For example, they possess more books and cultural objects at home, read more stories to their children and visit museums and libraries more often (for examples, see refs. 51 , 54 , 55 ). Upper/middle-class children are also more involved in extra-curricular activities (for example, playing a musical instrument) than working-class children 55 , 56 , 57 .

Beyond this implicit familiarization with the school curriculum, upper/middle-class parents more often organize educational activities that are explicitly designed to develop academic skills of their children 57 , 58 , 59 . For example, they are more likely to monitor and re-explain lessons or use games and textbooks to develop and reinforce academic skills (for example, labelling numbers, letters or colours 57 , 60 ). Upper/middle-class parents also provide higher levels of support and spend more time helping children with homework than working-class parents (for examples, see refs. 61 , 62 ). Thus, even if all parents are committed to the academic success of their children, working-class parents have fewer chances to provide the help that children need to complete homework 63 , and homework is more beneficial for children from upper-middle class families than for children from working-class families 64 , 65 .

School closures amplify the impact of cultural inequalities

The trends described above have been observed in ‘normal’ times when schools are open. School closures, by making learning rely more strongly on practices implemented at home (rather than at school), are likely to amplify the impact of these disparities. Consistent with this idea, research has shown that the social class achievement gap usually greatly widens during school breaks—a phenomenon described as ‘summer learning loss’ or ‘summer setback’ 66 , 67 , 68 . During holidays, the learning by children tends to decline, and this is particularly pronounced in children from working-class families. Consequently, the social class achievement gap grows more rapidly during the summer months than it does in the rest of the year. This phenomenon is partly explained by the fact that during the break from school, social class disparities in investment in activities that are beneficial for academic achievement (for example, reading, travelling to a foreign country or museum visits) are more pronounced.

Therefore, when they are out of school, children from upper/middle-class backgrounds may continue to develop academic skills unlike their working-class counterparts, who may stagnate or even regress. Research also indicates that learning loss during school breaks tends to be cumulative 66 . Thus, repeated episodes of school closure are likely to have profound consequences for the social class achievement gap. Consistent with the idea that school closures could lead to similar processes as those identified during summer breaks, a recent survey indicated that during the COVID-19 lockdown in the United Kingdom, children from upper/middle-class families spent more time on educational activities (5.8 h per day) than those from working-class families (4.5 h per day) 7 , 69 .

Unequal dispositions for autonomy and self-regulation

School closures have encouraged autonomous work among students. This ‘independent’ way of studying is compatible with the family socialization of upper/middle-class students, but does not match the interdependent norms more commonly associated with working-class contexts 9 . Upper/middle-class contexts tend to promote cultural norms of independence whereby individuals perceive themselves as autonomous actors, independent of other individuals and of the social context, able to pursue their own goals 70 . For example, upper/middle-class parents tend to invite children to express their interests, preferences and opinions during the various activities of everyday life 54 , 55 . Conversely, in working-class contexts characterized by low economic resources and where life is more uncertain, individuals tend to perceive themselves as interdependent, connected to others and members of social groups 53 , 70 , 71 . This interdependent self-construal fits less well with the independent culture of academic contexts. This cultural mismatch between interdependent self-construal common in working-class students and the independent norms of the educational institution has negative consequences for academic performance 9 .

Once again, the impact of these differences is likely to be amplified during school closures, when being able to work alone and autonomously is especially useful. The requirement to work alone is more likely to match the independent self-construal of upper/middle-class students than the interdependent self-construal of working-class students. In the case of working-class students, this mismatch is likely to increase their difficulties in working alone at home. Supporting our argument, recent research has shown that working-class students tend to underachieve in contexts where students work individually compared with contexts where students work with others 72 . Similarly, during school closures, high self-regulation skills (for example, setting goals, selecting appropriate learning strategies and maintaining motivation 73 ) are required to maintain study activities and are likely to be especially useful for using digital resources efficiently. Research has shown that students from working-class backgrounds typically develop their self-regulation skills to a lesser extent than those from upper/middle-class backgrounds 74 , 75 , 76 .

Interestingly, some authors have suggested that independent (versus interdependent) self-construal may also affect communication with teachers 77 . Indeed, in the context of distance learning, working-class families are less likely to respond to the communication of teachers because their ‘interdependent’ self leads them to respect hierarchies, and thus perceive teachers as an expert who ‘can be trusted to make the right decisions for learning’. Upper/middle class families, relying on ‘independent’ self-construal, are more inclined to seek individualized feedback, and therefore tend to participate to a greater extent in exchanges with teachers. Such cultural differences are important because they can also contribute to the difficulties encountered by working-class families.

The structural divide: unequal support from schools

The issues reviewed thus far all increase the vulnerability of children and students from underprivileged backgrounds when schools are closed. To offset these disadvantages, it might be expected that the school should increase its support by providing additional resources for working-class students. However, recent data suggest that differences in the material and human resources invested in providing educational support for children during periods of school closure were—paradoxically—in favour of upper/middle-class students (Fig. 1 ). In England, for example, upper/middle-class parents reported benefiting from online classes and video-conferencing with teachers more often than working-class parents 10 . Furthermore, active help from school (for example, online teaching, private tutoring or chats with teachers) occurred more frequently in the richest households (64% of the richest households declared having received help from school) than in the poorest households (47%). Another survey found that in the United Kingdom, upper/middle-class children were more likely to take online lessons every day (30%) than working-class students (16%) 12 . This substantial difference might be due, at least in part, to the fact that private schools are better equipped in terms of online platforms (60% of schools have at least one online platform) than state schools (37%, and 23% in the most deprived schools) and were more likely to organize daily online lessons. Similarly, in the United Kingdom, in schools with a high proportion of students eligible for free school meals, teachers were less inclined to broadcast an online lesson for their pupils 78 . Interestingly, 58% of teachers in the wealthiest areas reported having messaged their students or their students’ parents during lockdown compared with 47% in the most deprived schools. In addition, the probability of children receiving technical support from the school (for example, by providing pupils with laptops or other devices) is, surprisingly, higher in the most advantaged schools than in the most deprived 78 .

In addition to social class disparities, there has been less support from schools for African-American and Latinx students. During school closures in the United States, 40% of African-American students and 30% of Latinx students received no online teaching compared with 10% of white students 79 . Another source of inequality is that the probability of school closure was correlated with social class and race. In the United States, for example, school closures from September to December 2020 were more common in schools with a high proportion of racial/ethnic minority students, who experience homelessness and are eligible for free/discounted school meals 80 .

Similarly, access to educational resources and support was lower in poorer (compared with richer) countries 81 . In sub-Saharan Africa, during lockdown, 45% of children had no exposure at all to any type of remote learning. Of those who did, the medium was mostly radio, television or paper rather than digital. In African countries, at most 10% of children received some material through the Internet. In Latin America, 90% of children received some remote learning, but less than half of that was through the internet—the remainder being via radio and television 81 . In Ecuador, high-school students from the lowest wealth quartile had fewer remote-learning opportunities, such as Google class/Zoom, than students from the highest wealth quartile 31 .

Thus, the achievement gap and its accentuation during lockdown are due not only to the cultural and digital disadvantages of working-class families but also to unequal support from schools. This inequality in school support is not due to teachers being indifferent to or even supportive of social stratification. Rather, we believe that these effects are fundamentally structural. In many countries, schools located in upper/middle-class neighbourhoods have more money than those in the poorest neighbourhoods. Moreover, upper/middle-class parents invest more in the schools of their children than working-class parents (for example, see ref. 82 ), and schools have an interest in catering more for upper/middle-class families than for working-class families 83 . Additionally, the expectation of teachers may be lower for working-class children 84 . For example, they tend to estimate that working-class students invest less effort in learning than their upper/middle-class counterparts 85 . These differences in perception may have influenced the behaviour of teachers during school closure, such that teachers in privileged neighbourhoods provided more information to students because they expected more from them in term of effort and achievement. The fact that upper/middle-class parents are better able than working-class parents to comply with the expectations of teachers (for examples, see refs. 55 , 86 ) may have reinforced this phenomenon. These discrepancies echo data showing that working-class students tend to request less help in their schoolwork than upper/middle-class ones 87 , and they may even avoid asking for help because they believe that such requests could lead to reprimands 88 . During school closures, these students (and their families) may in consequence have been less likely to ask for help and resources. Jointly, these phenomena have resulted in upper/middle-class families receiving more support from schools during lockdown than their working-class counterparts.

Psychological effects of digital, cultural and structural divides

Despite being strongly influenced by social class, differences in academic achievement are often interpreted by parents, teachers and students as reflecting differences in ability 89 . As a result, upper/middle-class students are usually perceived—and perceive themselves—as smarter than working-class students, who are perceived—and perceive themselves—as less intelligent 90 , 91 , 92 or less able to succeed 93 . Working-class students also worry more about the fact that they might perform more poorly than upper/middle-class students 94 , 95 . These fears influence academic learning in important ways. In particular, they can consume cognitive resources when children and students work on academic tasks 96 , 97 . Self-efficacy also plays a key role in engaging in learning and perseverance in the face of difficulties 13 , 98 . In addition, working-class students are those for whom the fear of being outperformed by others is the most negatively related to academic performance 99 .

The fact that working-class children and students are less familiar with the tasks set by teachers, and less well equipped and supported, makes them more likely to experience feelings of incompetence (Fig. 1 ). Working-class parents are also more likely than their upper/middle-class counterparts to feel unable to help their children with schoolwork. Consistent with this, research has shown that both working-class students and parents have lower feelings of academic self-efficacy than their upper/middle-class counterparts 100 , 101 . These differences have been documented under ‘normal’ conditions but are likely to be exacerbated during distance learning. Recent surveys conducted during the school closures have confirmed that upper/middle-class families felt better able to support their children in distance learning than did working-class families 10 and that upper/middle-class parents helped their children more and felt more capable to do so 11 , 12 .

Pandemic disparity, future directions and recommendations

The research reviewed thus far suggests that children and their families are highly unequal with respect to digital access, skills and use. It also shows that upper/middle-class students are more likely to be supported in their homework (by their parents and teachers) than working-class students, and that upper/middle-class students and parents will probably feel better able than working-class ones to adapt to the context of distance learning. For all these reasons, we anticipate that as a result of school closures, the COVID-19 pandemic will substantially increase the social class achievement gap. Because school closures are a recent occurrence, it is too early to measure with precision their effects on the widening of the achievement gap. However, some recent data are consistent with this idea.

Evidence for a widening gap during the pandemic

Comparing academic achievement in 2020 with previous years provides an early indication of the effects of school closures during the pandemic. In France, for example, first and second graders take national evaluations at the beginning of the school year. Initial comparisons of the results for 2020 with those from previous years revealed that the gap between schools classified as ‘priority schools’ (those in low-income urban areas) and schools in higher-income neighbourhoods—a gap observed every year—was particularly pronounced in 2020 in both French and mathematics 102 .

Similarly, in the Netherlands, national assessments take place twice a year. In 2020, they took place both before and after school closures. A recent analysis compared progress during this period in 2020 in mathematics/arithmetic, spelling and reading comprehension for 7–11-year-old students within the same period in the three previous years 103 . Results indicated a general learning loss in 2020. More importantly, for the 8% of working-class children, the losses were 40% greater than they were for upper/middle-class children.

Similar results were observed in Belgium among students attending the final year of primary school. Compared with students from previous cohorts, students affected by school closures experienced a substantial decrease in their mathematics and language scores, with children from more disadvantaged backgrounds experiencing greater learning losses 104 . Likewise, oral reading assessments in more than 100 school districts in the United States showed that the development of this skill among children in second and third grade significantly slowed between Spring and Autumn 2020, but this slowdown was more pronounced in schools from lower-achieving districts 105 .

It is likely that school closures have also amplified racial disparities in learning and achievement. For example, in the United States, after the first lockdown, students of colour lost the equivalent of 3–5 months of learning, whereas white students were about 1–3 months behind. Moreover, in the Autumn, when some students started to return to classrooms, African-American and Latinx students were more likely to continue distance learning, despite being less likely to have access to the digital tools, Internet access and live contact with teachers 106 .

In some African countries (for example, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Tanzania and Uganda), the COVID-19 crisis has resulted in learning loss ranging from 6 months to more 1 year 107 , and this learning loss appears to be greater for working-class children (that is, those attending no-fee schools) than for upper/middle-class children 108 .

These findings show that school closures have exacerbated achievement gaps linked to social class and ethnicity. However, more research is needed to address the question of whether school closures differentially affect the learning of students from working- and upper/middle-class families.

Future directions

First, to assess the specific and unique impact of school closures on student learning, longitudinal research should compare student achievement at different times of the year, before, during and after school closures, as has been done to document the summer learning loss 66 , 109 . In the coming months, alternating periods of school closure and opening may occur, thereby presenting opportunities to do such research. This would also make it possible to examine whether the gap diminishes a few weeks after children return to in-school learning or whether, conversely, it increases with time because the foundations have not been sufficiently acquired to facilitate further learning 110 .

Second, the mechanisms underlying the increase in social class disparities during school closures should be examined. As discussed above, school closures result in situations for which students are unevenly prepared and supported. It would be appropriate to seek to quantify the contribution of each of the factors that might be responsible for accentuating the social class achievement gap. In particular, distinguishing between factors that are relatively ‘controllable’ (for example, resources made available to pupils) and those that are more difficult to control (for example, the self-efficacy of parents in supporting the schoolwork of their children) is essential to inform public policy and teaching practices.

Third, existing studies are based on general comparisons and very few provide insights into the actual practices that took place in families during school closure and how these practices affected the achievement gap. For example, research has documented that parents from working-class backgrounds are likely to find it more difficult to help their children to complete homework and to provide constructive feedback 63 , 111 , something that could in turn have a negative impact on the continuity of learning of their children. In addition, it seems reasonable to assume that during lockdown, parents from upper/middle-class backgrounds encouraged their children to engage in practices that, even if not explicitly requested by teachers, would be beneficial to learning (for example, creative activities or reading). Identifying the practices that best predict the maintenance or decline of educational achievement during school closures would help identify levers for intervention.

Finally, it would be interesting to investigate teaching practices during school closures. The lockdown in the spring of 2020 was sudden and unexpected. Within a few days, teachers had to find a way to compensate for the school closure, which led to highly variable practices. Some teachers posted schoolwork on platforms, others sent it by email, some set work on a weekly basis while others set it day by day. Some teachers also set up live sessions in large or small groups, providing remote meetings for questions and support. There have also been variations in the type of feedback given to students, notably through the monitoring and correcting of work. Future studies should examine in more detail what practices schools and teachers used to compensate for the school closures and their effects on widening, maintaining or even reducing the gap, as has been done for certain specific literacy programmes 112 as well as specific instruction topics (for example, ecology and evolution 113 ).

Practical recommendations

We are aware of the debate about whether social science research on COVID-19 is suitable for making policy decisions 114 , and we draw attention to the fact that some of our recommendations (Table 1 ) are based on evidence from experiments or interventions carried out pre-COVID while others are more speculative. In any case, we emphasize that these suggestions should be viewed with caution and be tested in future research. Some of our recommendations could be implemented in the event of new school closures, others only when schools re-open. We also acknowledge that while these recommendations are intended for parents and teachers, their implementation largely depends on the adoption of structural policies. Importantly, given all the issues discussed above, we emphasize the importance of prioritizing, wherever possible, in-person learning over remote learning 115 and where this is not possible, of implementing strong policies to support distance learning, especially for disadvantaged families.

Where face-to face teaching is not possible and teachers are responsible for implementing distance learning, it will be important to make them aware of the factors that can exacerbate inequalities during lockdown and to provide them with guidance about practices that would reduce these inequalities. Thus, there is an urgent need for interventions aimed at making teachers aware of the impact of the social class of children and families on the following factors: (1) access to, familiarity with and use of digital devices; (2) familiarity with academic knowledge and skills; and (3) preparedness to work autonomously. Increasing awareness of the material, cultural and psychological barriers that working-class children and families face during lockdown should increase the quality and quantity of the support provided by teachers and thereby positively affect the achievements of working-class students.

In addition to increasing the awareness of teachers of these barriers, teachers should be encouraged to adjust the way they communicate with working-class families due to differences in self-construal compared with upper/middle-class families 77 . For example, questions about family (rather than personal) well-being would be congruent with interdependent self-construals. This should contribute to better communication and help keep a better track of the progress of students during distance learning.

It is also necessary to help teachers to engage in practices that have a chance of reducing inequalities 53 , 116 . Particularly important is that teachers and schools ensure that homework can be done by all children, for example, by setting up organizations that would help children whose parents are not in a position to monitor or assist with the homework of their children. Options include homework help groups and tutoring by teachers after class. When schools are open, the growing tendency to set homework through digital media should be resisted as far as possible given the evidence we have reviewed above. Moreover, previous research has underscored the importance of homework feedback provided by teachers, which is positively related to the amount of homework completed and predictive of academic performance 117 . Where homework is web-based, it has also been shown that feedback on web-based homework enhances the learning of students 118 . It therefore seems reasonable to predict that the social class achievement gap will increase more slowly (or even remain constant or be reversed) in schools that establish individualized monitoring of students, by means of regular calls and feedback on homework, compared with schools where the support provided to pupils is more generic.

Given that learning during lockdown has increasingly taken place in family settings, we believe that interventions involving the family are also likely to be effective 119 , 120 , 121 . Simply providing families with suitable material equipment may be insufficient. Families should be given training in the efficient use of digital technology and pedagogical support. This would increase the self-efficacy of parents and students, with positive consequences for achievement. Ideally, such training would be delivered in person to avoid problems arising from the digital divide. Where this is not possible, individualized online tutoring should be provided. For example, studies conducted during the lockdown in Botswana and Italy have shown that individual online tutoring directly targeting either parents or students in middle school has a positive impact on the achievement of students, particularly for working-class students 122 , 123 .

Interventions targeting families should also address the psychological barriers faced by working-class families and children. Some interventions have already been designed and been shown to be effective in reducing the social class achievement gap, particularly in mathematics and language 124 , 125 , 126 . For example, research showed that an intervention designed to train low-income parents in how to support the mathematical development of their pre-kindergarten children (including classes and access to a library of kits to use at home) increased the quality of support provided by the parents, with a corresponding impact on the development of mathematical knowledge of their children. Such interventions should be particularly beneficial in the context of school closure.

Beyond its impact on academic performance and inequalities, the COVID-19 crisis has shaken the economies of countries around the world, casting millions of families around the world into poverty 127 , 128 , 129 . As noted earlier, there has been a marked increase in economic inequalities, bringing with it all the psychological and social problems that such inequalities create 130 , 131 , especially for people who live in scarcity 132 . The increase in educational inequalities is just one facet of the many difficulties that working-class families will encounter in the coming years, but it is one that could seriously limit the chances of their children escaping from poverty by reducing their opportunities for upward mobility. In this context, it should be a priority to concentrate resources on the most deprived students. A large proportion of the poorest households do not own a computer and do not have personal access to the Internet, which has important consequences for distance learning. During school closures, it is therefore imperative to provide such families with adequate equipment and Internet service, as was done in some countries in spring 2020. Even if the provision of such equipment is not in itself sufficient, it is a necessary condition for ensuring pedagogical continuity during lockdown.

Finally, after prolonged periods of school closure, many students may not have acquired the skills needed to pursue their education. A possible consequence would be an increase in the number of students for whom teachers recommend class repetitions. Class repetitions are contentious. On the one hand, class repetition more frequently affects working-class children and is not efficient in terms of learning improvement 133 . On the other hand, accepting lower standards of academic achievement or even suspending the practice of repeating a class could lead to pupils pursuing their education without mastering the key abilities needed at higher grades. This could create difficulties in subsequent years and, in this sense, be counterproductive. We therefore believe that the most appropriate way to limit the damage of the pandemic would be to help children catch up rather than allowing them to continue without mastering the necessary skills. As is being done in some countries, systematic remedial courses (for example, summer learning programmes) should be organized and financially supported following periods of school closure, with priority given to pupils from working-class families. Such interventions have genuine potential in that research has shown that participation in remedial summer programmes is effective in reducing learning loss during the summer break 134 , 135 , 136 . For example, in one study 137 , 438 students from high-poverty schools were offered a multiyear summer school programme that included various pedagogical and enrichment activities (for example, science investigation and music) and were compared with a ‘no-treatment’ control group. Students who participated in the summer programme progressed more than students in the control group. A meta-analysis 138 of 41 summer learning programmes (that is, classroom- and home-based summer interventions) involving children from kindergarten to grade 8 showed that these programmes had significantly larger benefits for children from working-class families. Although such measures are costly, the cost is small compared to the price of failing to fulfil the academic potential of many students simply because they were not born into upper/middle-class families.

The unprecedented nature of the current pandemic means that we lack strong data on what the school closure period is likely to produce in terms of learning deficits and the reproduction of social inequalities. However, the research discussed in this article suggests that there are good reasons to predict that this period of school closures will accelerate the reproduction of social inequalities in educational achievement.

By making school learning less dependent on teachers and more dependent on families and digital tools and resources, school closures are likely to greatly amplify social class inequalities. At a time when many countries are experiencing second, third or fourth waves of the pandemic, resulting in fresh periods of local or general lockdowns, systematic efforts to test these predictions are urgently needed along with steps to reduce the impact of school closures on the social class achievement gap.

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We thank G. Reis for editing the figure. The writing of this manuscript was supported by grant ANR-19-CE28-0007–PRESCHOOL from the French National Research Agency (S.G.).

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Goudeau, S., Sanrey, C., Stanczak, A. et al. Why lockdown and distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to increase the social class achievement gap. Nat Hum Behav 5 , 1273–1281 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-021-01212-7

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impact of covid 19 on teachers essay

Here's how COVID-19 affected education – and how we can get children’s learning back on track

Students in a classroom being taught by a teacher.

Nearly 147 million children missed more than half of their in-person schooling between 2020 and 2022. Image:  Unsplash/Taylor Flowe

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  • As well as its health impacts, COVID-19 had a huge effect on the education of children – but the full scale is only just starting to emerge.
  • As pandemic lockdowns continue to shut schools, it’s clear the most vulnerable have suffered the most.
  • Recovering the months of lost education must be a priority for all nations.

When the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic on 11 March 2020, few could have foreseen the catastrophic effects the virus would have on the education of the world’s children.

During the first 12 months of the pandemic, lockdowns led to 1.5 billion students in 188 countries being unable to attend school in person, causing lasting effects on the education of an entire generation .

As an OECD report into the effects of school closures in 2021 put it: “Few groups are less vulnerable to the coronavirus than school children, but few groups have been more affected by the policy responses to contain the virus.”

Although many school closures were announced as temporary measures, these shutdowns persisted throughout 2020 – and even beyond in some cases.

As late as March 2022, UNICEF reported that 23 countries, home to around 405 million schoolchildren, had not yet fully reopened their schools . As China battled to contain new COVID-19 outbreaks, schools were closed in Shanghai and Xian in October 2022.

COVID has ended education for some

Nearly 147 million children missed more than half of their in-person schooling between 2020 and 2022, UNICEF says. And it warns that many, especially the most vulnerable, are at risk of dropping out of education altogether.

The danger is highlighted by UNICEF data showing that 43% of students did not return when schools in Liberia reopened in December 2020. The number of out-of-school children in South Africa tripled from 250,000 to 750,000 between March 2020 and July 2021, UNICEF adds.

When schools in Uganda reopened after being closed for two years, almost one in ten children were missing from classrooms. And in Malawi, the dropout rate among girls in secondary education increased by 48% between 2020 and 2021.

A graphic showing the deepening learning crisis.

Out-of-school children are among the most vulnerable and marginalized children in society, says UNICEF. They are the least likely to be able to read, write or do basic maths, and when not in school they are at risk of exploitation and a lifetime of poverty and deprivation, it says.

Lost learning time

Even when children are in school, the amount of learning time they have lost to the pandemic is compounding what UNICEF describes as “a desperately poor level of learning” in 32 low-income countries it has studied.

“In the countries analyzed, the current pace of learning is so slow that it would take seven years for most schoolchildren to learn foundational reading skills that should have been grasped in two years, and 11 years to learn foundational numeracy skills,” the charity says.

A graphic showing estimated impacts of COVID-19 on learning poverty.

Analysis of the crisis by UNESCO, published in November 2022, found that the most vulnerable learners have been hardest hit by the lack of schooling. It added that progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal for Education had been set back.

In Latin America and the Caribbean – a region that suffered one of the longest periods of school closures – average primary education scores in reading and maths could have slipped back to a level last seen 10 years ago , the World Bank says.

Four out of five sixth graders may not be able to adequately understand and interpret a text of moderate length, the bank says. As a result, these students are likely to earn 12% less over their lifetime than if their education had not been curtailed by the pandemic, it estimates.

Widening the achievement gap

In India, the pandemic has widened the gaps in learning outcomes among schoolchildren with those from disenfranchised and vulnerable families falling furthest behind, according to a 2022 report by the World Economic Forum.

Even where schools tried to keep teaching using remote learning, the socio-economic divide was perpetuated. In the United States, a study found children’s achievement in maths fell by 50% more in less well-off areas , compared to those in more affluent neighbourhoods.

One year on: we look back at how the Forum’s networks have navigated the global response to COVID-19.

Using a multistakeholder approach, the Forum and its partners through its COVID Action Platform have provided countless solutions to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, protecting lives and livelihoods.

Throughout 2020, along with launching its COVID Action Platform , the Forum and its Partners launched more than 40 initiatives in response to the pandemic.

The work continues. As one example, the COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs is supporting 90,000 social entrepreneurs, with an impact on 1.4 billion people, working to serve the needs of excluded, marginalized and vulnerable groups in more than 190 countries.

Read more about the COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, our support of GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemics Preparedness and Innovations (CEPI), and the COVAX initiative and innovative approaches to solve the pandemic, like our Common Trust Network – aiming to help roll out a “digital passport” in our Impact Story .

Consultancy firm McKinsey says that US students were on average five months behind in mathematics and four months behind in reading by the end of the 2020-21 school year. Disadvantaged students were hit hardest, with Black students losing six months of learning on average.

A graphic showing that by the end of 2020-21 school year, students were on average five months behind in math and four months behind in reading.

Researchers in Japan found a similar pattern, with disadvantaged children and the youngest suffering most from school closures. They said the adverse effects of being forced to study at home lasted longest for those with poorest living conditions .

However, in Sweden, where schools stayed open during the pandemic, there was no decline in reading comprehension scores among children from all socio-economic groups, leading researchers to conclude that the shock of the pandemic alone did not affect students’ performance.

Getting learning back on track

So what can be done to help the pandemic generation to recover their lost learning ?

The World Bank outlines 10 actions countries can take, including getting schools to assess students’ learning loss and monitor their progress once they are back at school.

A graphic showing opportunities to make education more inclusive, effective and resilient that it was before the crisis.

Catch-up education and measures to ensure that children don’t drop out of school will be essential, it says. These could include changing the school calendar, and amending the curriculum to focus on foundational skills.

There’s also a need to enhance learning opportunities at home, such as by distributing books and digital devices if possible. Supporting parents in this role is also critical, the bank says.

Teachers will also need extra help to avoid burnout, the bank notes. It highlights a “need to invest aggressively in teachers’ professional development and use technology to enhance their work”.

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What the Data Says About Pandemic School Closures, Four Years Later

The more time students spent in remote instruction, the further they fell behind. And, experts say, extended closures did little to stop the spread of Covid.

Sarah Mervosh

By Sarah Mervosh ,  Claire Cain Miller and Francesca Paris

Four years ago this month, schools nationwide began to shut down, igniting one of the most polarizing and partisan debates of the pandemic.

Some schools, often in Republican-led states and rural areas, reopened by fall 2020. Others, typically in large cities and states led by Democrats, would not fully reopen for another year.

A variety of data — about children’s academic outcomes and about the spread of Covid-19 — has accumulated in the time since. Today, there is broad acknowledgment among many public health and education experts that extended school closures did not significantly stop the spread of Covid, while the academic harms for children have been large and long-lasting.

While poverty and other factors also played a role, remote learning was a key driver of academic declines during the pandemic, research shows — a finding that held true across income levels.

Source: Fahle, Kane, Patterson, Reardon, Staiger and Stuart, “ School District and Community Factors Associated With Learning Loss During the COVID-19 Pandemic .” Score changes are measured from 2019 to 2022. In-person means a district offered traditional in-person learning, even if not all students were in-person.

“There’s fairly good consensus that, in general, as a society, we probably kept kids out of school longer than we should have,” said Dr. Sean O’Leary, a pediatric infectious disease specialist who helped write guidance for the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommended in June 2020 that schools reopen with safety measures in place.

There were no easy decisions at the time. Officials had to weigh the risks of an emerging virus against the academic and mental health consequences of closing schools. And even schools that reopened quickly, by the fall of 2020, have seen lasting effects.

But as experts plan for the next public health emergency, whatever it may be, a growing body of research shows that pandemic school closures came at a steep cost to students.

The longer schools were closed, the more students fell behind.

At the state level, more time spent in remote or hybrid instruction in the 2020-21 school year was associated with larger drops in test scores, according to a New York Times analysis of school closure data and results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress , an authoritative exam administered to a national sample of fourth- and eighth-grade students.

At the school district level, that finding also holds, according to an analysis of test scores from third through eighth grade in thousands of U.S. districts, led by researchers at Stanford and Harvard. In districts where students spent most of the 2020-21 school year learning remotely, they fell more than half a grade behind in math on average, while in districts that spent most of the year in person they lost just over a third of a grade.

( A separate study of nearly 10,000 schools found similar results.)

Such losses can be hard to overcome, without significant interventions. The most recent test scores, from spring 2023, show that students, overall, are not caught up from their pandemic losses , with larger gaps remaining among students that lost the most ground to begin with. Students in districts that were remote or hybrid the longest — at least 90 percent of the 2020-21 school year — still had almost double the ground to make up compared with students in districts that allowed students back for most of the year.

Some time in person was better than no time.

As districts shifted toward in-person learning as the year went on, students that were offered a hybrid schedule (a few hours or days a week in person, with the rest online) did better, on average, than those in places where school was fully remote, but worse than those in places that had school fully in person.

Students in hybrid or remote learning, 2020-21

80% of students

Some schools return online, as Covid-19 cases surge. Vaccinations start for high-priority groups.

Teachers are eligible for the Covid vaccine in more than half of states.

Most districts end the year in-person or hybrid.

Source: Burbio audit of more than 1,200 school districts representing 47 percent of U.S. K-12 enrollment. Note: Learning mode was defined based on the most in-person option available to students.

Income and family background also made a big difference.

A second factor associated with academic declines during the pandemic was a community’s poverty level. Comparing districts with similar remote learning policies, poorer districts had steeper losses.

But in-person learning still mattered: Looking at districts with similar poverty levels, remote learning was associated with greater declines.

A community’s poverty rate and the length of school closures had a “roughly equal” effect on student outcomes, said Sean F. Reardon, a professor of poverty and inequality in education at Stanford, who led a district-level analysis with Thomas J. Kane, an economist at Harvard.

Score changes are measured from 2019 to 2022. Poorest and richest are the top and bottom 20% of districts by percent of students on free/reduced lunch. Mostly in-person and mostly remote are districts that offered traditional in-person learning for more than 90 percent or less than 10 percent of the 2020-21 year.

But the combination — poverty and remote learning — was particularly harmful. For each week spent remote, students in poor districts experienced steeper losses in math than peers in richer districts.

That is notable, because poor districts were also more likely to stay remote for longer .

Some of the country’s largest poor districts are in Democratic-leaning cities that took a more cautious approach to the virus. Poor areas, and Black and Hispanic communities , also suffered higher Covid death rates, making many families and teachers in those districts hesitant to return.

“We wanted to survive,” said Sarah Carpenter, the executive director of Memphis Lift, a parent advocacy group in Memphis, where schools were closed until spring 2021 .

“But I also think, man, looking back, I wish our kids could have gone back to school much quicker,” she added, citing the academic effects.

Other things were also associated with worse student outcomes, including increased anxiety and depression among adults in children’s lives, and the overall restriction of social activity in a community, according to the Stanford and Harvard research .

Even short closures had long-term consequences for children.

While being in school was on average better for academic outcomes, it wasn’t a guarantee. Some districts that opened early, like those in Cherokee County, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta, and Hanover County, Va., lost significant learning and remain behind.

At the same time, many schools are seeing more anxiety and behavioral outbursts among students. And chronic absenteeism from school has surged across demographic groups .

These are signs, experts say, that even short-term closures, and the pandemic more broadly, had lasting effects on the culture of education.

“There was almost, in the Covid era, a sense of, ‘We give up, we’re just trying to keep body and soul together,’ and I think that was corrosive to the higher expectations of schools,” said Margaret Spellings, an education secretary under President George W. Bush who is now chief executive of the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Closing schools did not appear to significantly slow Covid’s spread.

Perhaps the biggest question that hung over school reopenings: Was it safe?

That was largely unknown in the spring of 2020, when schools first shut down. But several experts said that had changed by the fall of 2020, when there were initial signs that children were less likely to become seriously ill, and growing evidence from Europe and parts of the United States that opening schools, with safety measures, did not lead to significantly more transmission.

“Infectious disease leaders have generally agreed that school closures were not an important strategy in stemming the spread of Covid,” said Dr. Jeanne Noble, who directed the Covid response at the U.C.S.F. Parnassus emergency department.

Politically, though, there remains some disagreement about when, exactly, it was safe to reopen school.

Republican governors who pushed to open schools sooner have claimed credit for their approach, while Democrats and teachers’ unions have emphasized their commitment to safety and their investment in helping students recover.

“I do believe it was the right decision,” said Jerry T. Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, which resisted returning to school in person over concerns about the availability of vaccines and poor ventilation in school buildings. Philadelphia schools waited to partially reopen until the spring of 2021 , a decision Mr. Jordan believes saved lives.

“It doesn’t matter what is going on in the building and how much people are learning if people are getting the virus and running the potential of dying,” he said.

Pandemic school closures offer lessons for the future.

Though the next health crisis may have different particulars, with different risk calculations, the consequences of closing schools are now well established, experts say.

In the future, infectious disease experts said, they hoped decisions would be guided more by epidemiological data as it emerged, taking into account the trade-offs.

“Could we have used data to better guide our decision making? Yes,” said Dr. Uzma N. Hasan, division chief of pediatric infectious diseases at RWJBarnabas Health in Livingston, N.J. “Fear should not guide our decision making.”

Source: Fahle, Kane, Patterson, Reardon, Staiger and Stuart, “ School District and Community Factors Associated With Learning Loss During the Covid-19 Pandemic. ”

The study used estimates of learning loss from the Stanford Education Data Archive . For closure lengths, the study averaged district-level estimates of time spent in remote and hybrid learning compiled by the Covid-19 School Data Hub (C.S.D.H.) and American Enterprise Institute (A.E.I.) . The A.E.I. data defines remote status by whether there was an in-person or hybrid option, even if some students chose to remain virtual. In the C.S.D.H. data set, districts are defined as remote if “all or most” students were virtual.

An earlier version of this article misstated a job description of Dr. Jeanne Noble. She directed the Covid response at the U.C.S.F. Parnassus emergency department. She did not direct the Covid response for the University of California, San Francisco health system.

How we handle corrections

Sarah Mervosh covers education for The Times, focusing on K-12 schools. More about Sarah Mervosh

Claire Cain Miller writes about gender, families and the future of work for The Upshot. She joined The Times in 2008 and was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for public service for reporting on workplace sexual harassment issues. More about Claire Cain Miller

Francesca Paris is a Times reporter working with data and graphics for The Upshot. More about Francesca Paris

Class Of 2025: Follow Students From 1st Grade To Graduation

The covid generation: class of 2025 students on how the pandemic changed their school experience, it’s been four years since covid-19 shut down schools. the class of 2025 was in 7th grade. as juniors in high school, they’re still feeling the effects..

When COVID-19 first shut down schools in March 2020, the Class of 2025 was in 7th grade: the middle of middle school. School buildings shuttered and education shifted online for all students, forever disrupting the learning experience for the cohort at the heart of Oregon’s long-term graduation goals .

Johnathan has always been a fast learner. When he was younger, he could talk on and on about the motorcycles or the cars he worked on with his dad.

Like many of the students in OPB’s Class of 2025, when COVID-19 hit Oregon, he was at Ron Russell Middle School in Southeast Portland.

“The first four or five months of COVID, I don’t remember anything,” he said.

FILE: A sign reminds visitors to mask up at Prescott Elementary school, in February 2022. Students and teachers are continuing to adjust to learning in a post-COVID environment, years after Oregon schools returned to in-person instruction.

FILE: A sign reminds visitors to mask up at Prescott Elementary school, in February 2022. Students and teachers are continuing to adjust to learning in a post-COVID environment, years after Oregon schools returned to in-person instruction.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

Now, Johnathan has his driver’s license, balancing a busy work schedule at an auto parts shop with school. He’s an 11th grader at the David Douglas Online Academy, a program that didn’t exist before COVID.

After an interrupted 7th grade and a fully online 8th grade, getting back into the habits of school after distance learning proved difficult.

“I think that kind of led to a lot of procrastination among myself and definitely some other people around my age as well,” Johnathan said.

Now a junior, Johnathan has fallen behind on getting the credits he needs to graduate. On a recent winter afternoon, he wears a hoodie and a ball cap, armed with two energy drinks.

“‘How do I get back into this jam that I had before in middle school, before all of this stuff?’”

National and state reports may tell us how students perform on academic tests , or how many students experienced the loss of a parent due to COVID-19. But those raw data points only scratch the surface of how distance learning and other COVID-related changes interrupted their academic careers and undermined their paths to graduation and life afterwards.

Students and teachers are continuing to adjust to learning in a post-COVID environment, nearly three years since Oregon schools returned to in-person instruction.

For some students, their relationship with school has changed significantly.

State officials have changed their focus too. Leaders talk less about the goal for 100% of students in the Class of 2025 to reach graduation next year, instead zeroing in on literacy efforts for the state’s youngest learners.

Leyna, another student in the Class of 2025, said her life feels like a constant state of adjustment.

“To be a teenager right now is all about change because you have to adapt to like a lot of new technologies and a lot of new — just like a lot of new everything.”

Lost motivation, a “space missing”

Math has never been Leyna’s favorite subject. This year, she recalls struggling with square roots and trigonometry.

Though she feels more independence and freedom now compared to the COVID lockdowns, Leyna also senses a gap in her learning, starting when she first arrived in high school three years ago.

“I feel like the curriculums changed and then my brain kind of changed because I wasn’t able to keep up with what we were doing,” Leyna said. “It felt like there was a space missing.”

She now knows she learns better in person. She says it’s been challenging trying to form “genuine connections” with teachers and friends.

During the time at home in distance learning, Leyna found it difficult to stay motivated. She still struggles with that today. She said that lack of motivation sometimes contributes to attendance issues, a problem plaguing education officials statewide and nationally.

Leyna is a junior and one of the students in OPB's Class of 2025 project. She said being a teenager these days is "all about change".

Leyna is a junior and one of the students in OPB's Class of 2025 project. She said being a teenager these days is "all about change".

Elizabeth Miller / OPB

She says if she could give her younger self a piece of advice, it would be to stay focused on school and keep putting in the effort.

“Don’t give up, even though it sounds corny — it’s easy to give up,” she said. “I did give up a lot of times throughout my life but I think the biggest part where I did give up and it affected me really on a large scale was probably last year.”

Tracy Apple, an English teacher at David Douglas, said it is tough to keep students engaged. She sees a lot more students tuning out than she did before the pandemic.

Before COVID, every week, Apple would assign students to take notes and turn them into a written analysis.

“Now I do one every three or four [weeks] because the kids get overwhelmed,” she said. “They can’t keep up and soon as they hit something that doesn’t make sense, they’re just like, ‘I can’t do it.’”

But sometimes that flexibility and extra support isn’t enough for struggling students — and they don’t pass a class.

If a student fails a class at David Douglas, the main option to make up for that lost credit is through a virtual credit recovery program students can access during the school day, after school, or in summer school. An analysis from the David Douglas School District shows that a higher percentage of students are making up more failed classes than they were before the pandemic.

Between decreased motivation, a reliance on technology, and the emotional toll of COVID, Apple worries how students might fare after graduation.

“A lot of schooling isn’t just education, it’s social and emotional development,” Apple said, noting that the pandemic also had a disproportionate impact on students in low-income households.

Some students are still recovering from COVID-related disruptions to school. The way students respond to these disruptions may show up differently — in behavior, in attendance habits, and on a report card. It’s hard to know how this time will affect students five or ten years down the line.

Alternative education environments

Less than two miles from David Douglas’ sprawling high school campus, a neon sign welcomes you to “Fir Ridge Campus,” a much smaller alternative to the main high school.

It’s lunchtime at Fir Ridge, and teacher Jessica Classen is sitting in her mostly empty English classroom. Students pop their heads in to ask if they can grab a snack from her drawer. A couple of students sit at a table finishing their assignments.

The flexible, supportive environment at Fir Ridge is by design, as a “dropout prevention program” for high school students who aren’t succeeding in a traditional school environment. The small school of about 200 students is built around individual attention, mainly helping upperclassmen get the credits they need to graduate.

Students often get referred to Fir Ridge from David Douglas, a school of more than 2000. Here, classes are smaller and students ask Classen for help with a simple, “Hey, Jess.”

“It’s a lot harder for kids to just go unnoticed,” Classen said.

This campus existed before COVID, with the same goals. But among her students, Classen says she initially noticed a greater reliance on technology, like phones, and a reluctance to engage in conversations — something she didn’t see when she was a teacher before COVID.

FILE: Social distancing reminders like this one from 2021, were a common sight during the pandemic. Teacher Jessica Classen says when students returned to the classroom, she initially noticed a greater reliance on technology, like phones, and a reluctance to engage in conversations.

FILE: Social distancing reminders like this one from 2021, were a common sight during the pandemic. Teacher Jessica Classen says when students returned to the classroom, she initially noticed a greater reliance on technology, like phones, and a reluctance to engage in conversations.

Brandon Swanson / OPB

Classen has had conversations with her own teenage daughter, who doesn’t attend Fir Ridge but has still felt the lasting effects of COVID and its disruptions to school.

“She’s like ‘mom, I think it stunted me,’” Classen recalled her daughter. “She’s like, ‘I really feel like that time stunted me.’”

Classen’s classroom at Fir Ridge is set up to help students connect more — tables are organized in a “U” shape, with students facing each other and Classen’s own desk in the center. Handwritten agreements on the wall address how both teacher and students should treat each other and hold each other accountable.

While Fir Ridge has long been an option for David Douglas students, a new, different school structure popped up in the last four years: The David Douglas Online Academy.

Online learning and shifting priorities

Initial efforts at distance learning were widely panned by students and teachers alike. For Class of 2025 junior Johnathan, online learning was a difficult, sudden change. But that’s not his feeling toward learning online now, three years later. He’s different and the program is different.

When the David Douglas Online Academy first started in 2021, principal Shawna Myers said families chose the school for COVID-related reasons, staying at home to avoid crowds and potential exposure to the virus.

Myers says now students enroll in DDOA because it works for them.

“They’re choosing to be here and it’s great to see them wanting to be here and then excelling in here,” she said.

Students want to graduate early, or they’ve struggled in person due to anxiety, or they just work better on their own.

Students’ main reason to go to DDOA? Flexibility.

That’s part of what Johnathan loves about it, now that he’s trying to balance finishing high school with a part-time job.

“Let’s say I’m off one day, cool, I could start doing school work at 10 a.m.,” he explained. “If I’ve been working all day, cool, when I get home I’m going to start doing school work at 10 p.m.”

Johnathan, one of the students in the Class of 2025, is an 11th grader at the David Douglas Online Academy. He said the online program gives him flexibility to do schoolwork around his work schedule.

Johnathan, one of the students in the Class of 2025, is an 11th grader at the David Douglas Online Academy. He said the online program gives him flexibility to do schoolwork around his work schedule.

Johnathan says he would never have considered online school if COVID hadn’t happened. Because of the school’s flexibility, he’s able to work more hours at the auto parts store, where he’s picked up more responsibilities.

“I’m glad that I’ve been able to help out as much as I can,” he said.

But Johnathan’s priorities have shifted. He says he enjoys work more than school and that it has taken priority over school.

“I’m getting too, almost too focused on work, which is why I’m getting kind of less and less in school,” he said. “I think I need to go back, present more of myself in school, because I know I only have a year and a half left of it at this point.”

Johnathan said he fell off track during his first two years of high school. Earlier this school year, Johnathan talked about those failed courses as holes in his “boat down the river of graduation”.

“It’s like half filling up with water almost, I just want to make it through before I sink,” he said then.

Now, in March, Johnathan says there’s still water coming through the “cracks of the floorboard,” but now he’s focused on building a whole different vessel: his career.

”I’ve started to kind of build a bigger ship rather than focus on those little cracks and I think I kind of need to stop building, go back to those cracks and start filling them.”

He learns things at work that he can’t learn at school, such as how to interact with people of different ages and from all walks of life.

Myers, the DDOA principal, says she sees a lot of students who need to catch up. Students who were in distance learning during middle school often have to develop study or resilience skills they didn’t build during the pandemic.

“It’s a whole strategy too, not just the content but learning how to pace yourself and how to make sure that you finish,” she said.

Maintaining high expectations and pressure

The range of student experiences is broad, and the pandemic’s impact on school careers played a larger role in some students’ lives than others.

There are always going to be students who take advanced courses for college credit in high school, or who graduate early.

Statewide, data from the Oregon Department of Education show that the percentage of high school students taking advanced placement and other courses declined after the pandemic, but has rebounded a bit. In the 2022-2023 school year, 21.9% of Oregon high school students enrolled in at least one of those advanced courses, compared to 20.7% in 2021-2022.

A David Douglas High School district analysis of data tells a similar story. But this school year, participation in advanced courses trends downward.

Class of 2025 student Anna is in advanced classes, and has been for years. But she said she struggled with motivation back in middle school, before anyone had heard of COVID-19. She would procrastinate and put off homework or other assignments.

So in 7th grade, she wrote herself a letter.

“I said in the future, you need to focus on yourself a lot more, you need to actually do stuff on time instead of pushing yourself to do it last minute.”

Her 7th grade letter is in line with the expectations she’s set to go to college after high school. The pandemic and distance learning didn’t really change that. In fact, she was “enraged” when schools statewide shifted their grading policy to pass/no pass when schools first closed.

Class of 2025 student Anna, now a junior, wrote herself a letter back in 7th grade, telling her to focus on herself more and procrastinate less. The pandemic and distance learning didn't really change the plans she's made for herself.

Class of 2025 student Anna, now a junior, wrote herself a letter back in 7th grade, telling her to focus on herself more and procrastinate less. The pandemic and distance learning didn't really change the plans she's made for herself.

But despite her own achievements, she still thinks about the skills she never learned.

“I felt that year was really important about learning grammar rules and learning about different types of clauses and sentence structure and whatnot,” she said.

As the range of student needs and capabilities appear to have grown since the pandemic, what students learn — and how they learn — varies greatly.

During distance learning in 8th grade, Johnathan said he struggled with “mind-bogglingly repetitive” instruction.

“The teachers were really doing the best that they could with what they had, but it was so difficult for most of us … to kind of get that focus and have the motivation to like ‘oh, let’s get on the computer and just kind of sit around for the next six hours,” he said.

Anna, on the other hand, missed the opportunity for more repetition and practice, something that was harder to get online.

“When it comes to really important topics, in order for you to grasp them, it has to be ingrained in your brain, you have to keep being taught the same things over and over again and that’s how it sticks in your brain,” Anna said.

When she studies for a test, she physically writes out all her notes and makes online flashcards.

“I tend to study a bit too much,” Anna said.

Sometimes students know exactly what they missed out on during distance learning. For Anna, it was an 8th-grade lesson on rocket science that couldn’t really work online.

Now as a junior, Anna says she still thinks about what she told herself in seventh grade. She says she procrastinates less than she used to, in part because if she falls behind, her heavy homework load makes it almost impossible to catch back up.

Shawna Myers, the David Douglas Online Academy principal, said she hopes students have come out of the last four years knowing that “they can get through anything” and that help is always available.

“I think it’s gonna be a long time before we actually get through it,” Myers said.

“It’s not that we’re just back in school and we’re fine. I think we’ve got years to come of putting pieces back together and healing everyone.”

FILE: Signs at Richmond Elementary in southeast Portland require masks to enter the school. Portland Public Schools started the school year online because of COVID-19.

FILE: Signs at Richmond Elementary in southeast Portland require masks to enter the school. Portland Public Schools started the school year online because of COVID-19.

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impact of covid 19 on teachers essay

‘Class Of 2025,’ Episode 1: The Class Of 2025 and COVID-19

The first episode of the newest season of 'Class Of 2025' starts in spring 2020 - when COVID-19 shut down school buildings.

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The impact of COVID-19 on student achievement and what it may mean for educators

Subscribe to the brown center on education policy newsletter, jim soland , jim soland assistant professor, school of education and human development - university of virginia, affiliated research fellow - nwea @jsoland megan kuhfeld , megan kuhfeld senior research scientist - nwea @megankuhfeld beth tarasawa , bt beth tarasawa executive vice president of research - nwea @bethtarasawa angela johnson , aj angela johnson research scientist - nwea erik ruzek , and er erik ruzek research assistant professor, curry school of education - university of virginia jing liu jing liu assistant professor of education policy - university of maryland-college park @drjingliu.

May 27, 2020

This Chalkboard post from May 2020 draws on historical data and past research to forecast the possible impact of COVID-19 school closures on student achievement. With actual data from the 2020-21 school year now available, please see this December 2020 Chalkboard post for an updated analysis of this trend.

Virtually all K-12 students in the United States are currently missing face-to-face instruction due to COVID-19. Many parents and educators thus share a common worry: When the pandemic subsides, kids will return to school with lower achievement. There are also concerns that the gap between high- and low-achieving students will become larger. Given the need to address these concerns, we decided to use prior test scores from millions of students and leverage research on summer learning patterns to make informed projections of what learning loss due to the pandemic might look like. Ultimately, we wanted to know: What sort of learning losses could we expect from the shortened 2019-20 school year?

Answering this question is complicated by the unique circumstances of COVID-19. Current school closures have added to the time that most students already spend at home during the summer months without explicit face-to-face instruction from teachers. Meanwhile, teachers are scrambling to adapt content for an online platform and parents are juggling work responsibilities (if not joblessness) with caring for and educating their own children. Students themselves are faced with isolation, anxiety about a deadly virus, and uncertainty about the future. In so many ways, the current situation is unprecedented for most people alive today.

Yet there are parallels between the current situation and other reasons students miss school that can give us insight into how COVID-19 may affect achievement. This includes research on the effects of out-of-school time on learning due to absenteeism , weather-related school closures (e.g., Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans), and summer vacation . Existing evidence can provide a rough sense of how time out of school due to COVID-19 will affect achievement.

We relied heavily on past precedent when trying to understand how COVID-19 might impact achievement in the short and medium term. We used a national sample of over 5 million students in grades 3-8 who took MAP Growth assessments in 2017-2018. These assessments enable such estimates because MAP Growth is administered multiple times per year, which means test scores are available in fall, winter, and spring such that changes in achievement during the year can be understood and anticipated. We compared typical growth for students who completed a standard-length school year to projections under multiple scenarios. These scenarios were directly informed by out-of-school-time research.

The results are deeply concerning.

The two figures below show projected math and reading learning patterns from the beginning of the 2019-20 school year (before COVID-19 school closures) through the start of the 2020-21 school year. The solid lines represent average trajectories in a typical year with typical growth (estimated based on a prior year’s data) followed by normal patterns of learning loss over the summer (generally, student achievement/learning tends to decline during the summer, though this varies greatly by student). Next, we assume an extended summer loss would occur during the period since schools closed. We refer to this scenario as the “COVID Slide” (represented by the dotted lines). These projections give a sense of how much learning students could lose, though we hope they will be overestimations of loss, given the online instruction and home schooling occurring.

F1 COVID-19 learning loss - mathematics forecast

These preliminary COVID Slide estimates suggest students could begin fall 2020 with roughly 70% of the learning gains in reading from the prior year relative to a typical school year. In mathematics, students may show even smaller learning gains from the previous year, returning with less than 50% of the gains. In lower grades, students may be nearly a full year behind in math compared to what we would observe in normal conditions.

Though not shown in the figures, we produced similar estimates of learning loss based on research showing the effect of being absent on achievement. That is, we simply assumed students’ learning during COVID-19 school closures would be akin to what occurs when students miss school, a large assumption given the online learning and homeschooling now occurring. Results for absenteeism-based projections were often more dire.

We also examined how much more variable achievement might be in the fall—that is, how wide the range in achievement might be between very high and very low-performing students. This range has implications for whether teachers can provide similar content to all students in their classrooms, or if they might need to further differentiate instruction based on a broader range of needs.

f3 Learning loss in 4th and 6th grade in mathematics

The above figures show our estimate of that variability by subject for 4 th and 6 th grade. The shaded areas display the spread in potential outcomes between students who were in the 25 th percentile of summer learning loss (who showed steep declines) and those in the 75 th percentile (who showed flat lines or even small gains during the summer). In mathematics, we see a fair amount of variability in learning rates, though the majority of students show losses over the extended closure and summer period. However, in reading, there is an even wider spread of potential outcomes, with students who are in the 75 th percentile and above showing sizable learning gains during the summer. Further, the figure below shows that extended time out of school may lead to more variability in achievement when students return in the fall relative to a typical year. A wider range of learning needs like the ones suggested by the figure could create greater challenges for teachers.

f5 math and reading

The New York Times warns that today’s students could be the “COVID generation.” As we think through our road to recovery, we hope education leaders consider our projections among many data points when preparing to support students returning in the fall. Specifically, our results indicate that:

  • Students may be substantially behind, especially in mathematics . Thus, teachers of different grade levels may wish to coordinate in order to determine where to start instruction. Educators will also need to find ways to assess students early, either formally or informally, to understand exactly where students are academically.
  • Students are likely to enter school with more variability in their academic skills than under normal circumstances. Therefore, educators may need to consider ways to further differentiate instruction or provide opportunities for individualized learning.
  • Students who lose the most during the summer tend to gain the most when back in school, but this may not hold for COVID-19 . Regardless, the ground that students have to make up during the 2020-21 academic year will probably be greater due to COVID-19. Therefore, educators may want to work with students to determine growth rates needed to catch up and set learning goals for the year that are ambitious but obtainable.

Finally, the effects of COVID-19 our study cannot examine may be the ones most worthy of addressing. Prior research on students displaced by Hurricane Katrina indicated that they had difficulty concentrating and often manifested symptoms of depression in the months following the hurricane. Understanding these impacts and how best to support students’ social and emotional needs after the huge disruption of COVID-19 will be essential. Many students may face greater food insecurity, loss of family income, loss of family members to the coronavirus, and fear of catching the virus themselves.

While the scale of the COVID-19 school closures is novel, the inequalities in our school systems are unfortunately anything but new. Our models cannot account for the reality that the crisis is having an unequal impact on our most underserved communities. Nonetheless, we hope these analyses, which synthesize what we know from existing bodies of research, will inform tomorrow’s decision-making.

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#WhyIChoseEducation: ‘My Teachers Had a Big Impact on Me, and I Wanted to be That Person for Other Students,’ Says Meghan Larson

impact of covid 19 on teachers essay

Meghan Larson’s experience as a K-12 student was not an easy one. 

After missing two months of middle school when Hurricane Matthew struck eastern North Carolina in 2016, she missed three months of her freshman year when Hurricane Florence caused her high school’s ceiling to collapse and spent most of the next few years in remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Instead of dissuading her from a career in education, those challenges made Larson more determined to give students the opportunities she missed. 

“My teachers had a big impact on me, and I wanted to be that person for other students,” said Larson, a middle grades English language arts and social studies education major . “[Those experiences] were so bad, and they were so draining mentally for a teenager, but I also knew students across the entire country were also going the same thing as I was, and every time I thought about doing something else, I was just always pulled back into education because that’s what I loved.”

Although Larson took many of her classes online, she said she was inspired by the way her teachers still took the time to get to know her on a personal level, to ask her about her goals and provide support. She also received assistance from her college advisor, who told her about the NC State College of Education’s Transformational Scholarships Program , which provides scholarships totaling $40,000 over four years to promising students from eastern North Carolina who will return to the region to teach after graduating.

During her interview for the program, she talked about the challenges her town faced, but also about how she wanted to go back and make a difference.

“That’s an interview I remember to this day,” Larson said. “I remember every detail of it; it made me feel like an adult for the first time and made me feel like I was on the right path.”

As a Transformational Scholar, Larson has appreciated the support she has received from Transformational Scholarships Program Director Trisha Mackey , as well as the opportunities she has received to go on school visits across eastern North Carolina, network with NC State’s Educational Leadership Academy mentors and even meet with North Carolina legislators. 

“I’ve gotten a lot of chances to showcase where I’m from and my passions,” Larson said.

At the beginning of this academic year, Larson was elected president of the college’s Educational Council, which oversees all student organizations in the college. Their mission this year is to be the current leaders for future teachers. 

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Why I Chose Education: 

When I was at my pre-K graduation — I was like four years old — they asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up when we walked across the stage in our little cap and gowns. In the microphone, I said, I wanted to be a “pincipal” because I was scared. I said principal wrong. I’ve known since I was four that I wanted to be a teacher, and then I wanted to be in administration. 

I’m probably going to teach sixth grade or ninth grade English when I graduate, and then after that get my master’s and be a principal and then maybe move into school administration or the  school board and stuff like that. 

I want to make a difference in schools, and I know that it starts with teaching. But if I can make an impact on all the students, then I’m going to do that. 

What I Enjoy Most About the College of Education:

I’m just glad that I’m, one, in the best college in the state; two, that I am challenged constantly to become better; and three, just that I have the community that I have and the people who are around me. I have staff who care about me; I have deans who listen and I have friends who are going through it with me but also celebrating each other’s achievements. 

What Others Should Know About the College of Education:

I can give you a list of all of our accomplishments and everything we’re good at, but to really convince you, you’re just going to have to stop, take a look around and imagine yourself in this space. 

Why I Enjoy Most About Being a Transformational Scholar:

I don’t think that I would have done so well my first year if I didn’t have 15 people who have my back who were also going through the same thing. I had 15 new friends the first day I stepped foot on campus. And so the fact that I have that community in those peers, it’s just cool. 

I’m just grateful for that experience and that I get to tour like eastern North Carolina, all the time. It’s nice to have those experiences, and I’ve gotten so many opportunities. I’m studying abroad because of Transformational Scholars in less than two months. I’m a little scared about that, but I’m going to Ireland. 

I guess I wouldn’t have the sense of community that I have without it. 

The Last Person Who Inspired Me:

[College of Education Director of Outreach and Strategic partnerships] Lindsey Hubbard . I went on the We Teach for NC Spring Break trip with her last week. I just connect with her on a certain level; she inspires me to do better things as a student leader.

When we went on this trip, there were like 30 of us, and she was in charge of all of us the entire time. Seeing her plan the events and seeing her execute them and keeping her cool when things didn’t go right or we had to improvise and just seeing her empathy for everybody — she just inspires me in so many ways.

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Long covid: teachers, healthcare workers most vulnerable occupations, report finds.

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Global studies estimate between 4 percent and 14 percent of people infected with Covid-19 get ongoing, long-term symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Photo: Vinay Ranchhod

Teachers are the most vulnerable occupation to getting Long Covid, which can still affect people four years after catching the virus, a new study shows.

University of Otago associate professor Amanda Kvalsvig led the research, which looked at an evidence summary around Long Covid.

She told Morning Report Covid-19 needed to be taken seriously.

"A number of scientists here and internationally are now quite convinced that the prevalence [of Long Covid] is likely to increase , and that's a reason to take preventive action.

"There's been a lot of optimism that it will just go away, and we're now seeing very firm evidence that that is not going to happen."

Global studies estimate between four and 14 percent of people infected with Covid-19 get ongoing, long-term symptoms ranging from mild to severe.

Kvalsvig said some of the co-authors on the report had experienced Long Covid.

Amanda Kvalsvig

Lead author Amanda Kvalsvig says the cost of inaction is going to be "very high". Photo: Amanda Kvalsvig

"Some people who had Long Covid early in 2020 are still not well. So the experience of being not listened to and not believed has been very harmful for them alongside the very considerable health impacts that they've had from Long Covid."

The report found there was no cure for Long Covid , so its management was limited.

Kvalsvig said a government response was crucial.

"The cost of inaction is going to be very high and that's going to be a human cost and a financial cost.

"We're seeing that very clearly."

Looking at occupational risk, teachers in New Zealand were most vulnerable to getting Covid-19, followed by healthcare workers, she said. In turn, they were most vulnerable to getting Long Covid.

The report recommended three actions for the government to take immediately. They included risk assessment, reducing the spread of Covid, and extending vaccine eligibility to younger groups.

It said Covid-19 was a "syndemic condition" causing chronic disease, which in turn led to increased susceptibility to Covid-19.

"There are profound health-equity implications for Māori and Pacific Peoples and people with disabilities or underlying chronic conditions," the report found.

University of Otago epidemiologist Michael Baker is one of the 14 authors of the study.

He told First Up that so far, it showed Long Covid could persist for four years - the length of time data had been available.

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"It's disabling for a lot of people and our overall conclusion is that we need to act very vigorously to manage this risk," Baker said.

There were more than 200 individual symptoms linked to Covid-19, he said.

"It does have a very broad range of effects, but dominant effects would be fatigue and brain fog."

While some were short term, mild and transient, other effects could be life-altering like heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome and a whole range of neurological effects.

Baker said the government needed to step in.

Evidence showed Covid could be damaging to the entire New Zealand population, including foetuses, he said.

"We think it's going to affect things like productivity in our workforce and demand for healthcare services. So, prevention is much better than having to respond to an increasing number of people with long-term disability from this infection," Baker said.

However, the government would not commit to adopting minimum standards to prevent it, National Party deputy leader Nicola Willis said.

She told First Up there were no plans to introduce guidelines on ventilation and air quality.

The Ministry of Health had set up a programme to support patients with Long Covid, and also an advisory group to assess evidence and advise on practice guidelines, she said.

"I would just say to anyone who's got Long Covid, we recognise that that can be really difficult and it sits alongside a number of those chronic health conditions we seek to manage through our public health system."

Copyright © 2024 , Radio New Zealand

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The Effect of COVID-19 on Education

Jacob hoofman.

a Wayne State University School of Medicine, 540 East Canfield, Detroit, MI 48201, USA

Elizabeth Secord

b Department of Pediatrics, Wayne Pediatrics, School of Medicine, Pediatrics Wayne State University, 400 Mack Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201, USA

COVID-19 has changed education for learners of all ages. Preliminary data project educational losses at many levels and verify the increased anxiety and depression associated with the changes, but there are not yet data on long-term outcomes. Guidance from oversight organizations regarding the safety and efficacy of new delivery modalities for education have been quickly forged. It is no surprise that the socioeconomic gaps and gaps for special learners have widened. The medical profession and other professions that teach by incrementally graduated internships are also severely affected and have had to make drastic changes.

  • • Virtual learning has become a norm during COVID-19.
  • • Children requiring special learning services, those living in poverty, and those speaking English as a second language have lost more from the pandemic educational changes.
  • • For children with attention deficit disorder and no comorbidities, virtual learning has sometimes been advantageous.
  • • Math learning scores are more likely to be affected than language arts scores by pandemic changes.
  • • School meals, access to friends, and organized activities have also been lost with the closing of in-person school.

The transition to an online education during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic may bring about adverse educational changes and adverse health consequences for children and young adult learners in grade school, middle school, high school, college, and professional schools. The effects may differ by age, maturity, and socioeconomic class. At this time, we have few data on outcomes, but many oversight organizations have tried to establish guidelines, expressed concerns, and extrapolated from previous experiences.

General educational losses and disparities

Many researchers are examining how the new environment affects learners’ mental, physical, and social health to help compensate for any losses incurred by this pandemic and to better prepare for future pandemics. There is a paucity of data at this juncture, but some investigators have extrapolated from earlier school shutdowns owing to hurricanes and other natural disasters. 1

Inclement weather closures are estimated in some studies to lower middle school math grades by 0.013 to 0.039 standard deviations and natural disaster closures by up to 0.10 standard deviation decreases in overall achievement scores. 2 The data from inclement weather closures did show a more significant decrease for children dependent on school meals, but generally the data were not stratified by socioeconomic differences. 3 , 4 Math scores are impacted overall more negatively by school absences than English language scores for all school closures. 4 , 5

The Northwest Evaluation Association is a global nonprofit organization that provides research-based assessments and professional development for educators. A team of researchers at Stanford University evaluated Northwest Evaluation Association test scores for students in 17 states and the District of Columbia in the Fall of 2020 and estimated that the average student had lost one-third of a year to a full year's worth of learning in reading, and about three-quarters of a year to more than 1 year in math since schools closed in March 2020. 5

With school shifted from traditional attendance at a school building to attendance via the Internet, families have come under new stressors. It is increasingly clear that families depended on schools for much more than math and reading. Shelter, food, health care, and social well-being are all part of what children and adolescents, as well as their parents or guardians, depend on schools to provide. 5 , 6

Many families have been impacted negatively by the loss of wages, leading to food insecurity and housing insecurity; some of loss this is a consequence of the need for parents to be at home with young children who cannot attend in-person school. 6 There is evidence that this economic instability is leading to an increase in depression and anxiety. 7 In 1 survey, 34.71% of parents reported behavioral problems in their children that they attributed to the pandemic and virtual schooling. 8

Children have been infected with and affected by coronavirus. In the United States, 93,605 students tested positive for COVID-19, and it was reported that 42% were Hispanic/Latino, 32% were non-Hispanic White, and 17% were non-Hispanic Black, emphasizing a disproportionate effect for children of color. 9 COVID infection itself is not the only issue that affects children’s health during the pandemic. School-based health care and school-based meals are lost when school goes virtual and children of lower socioeconomic class are more severely affected by these losses. Although some districts were able to deliver school meals, school-based health care is a primary source of health care for many children and has left some chronic conditions unchecked during the pandemic. 10

Many families report that the stress of the pandemic has led to a poorer diet in children with an increase in the consumption of sweet and fried foods. 11 , 12 Shelter at home orders and online education have led to fewer exercise opportunities. Research carried out by Ammar and colleagues 12 found that daily sitting had increased from 5 to 8 hours a day and binge eating, snacking, and the number of meals were all significantly increased owing to lockdown conditions and stay-at-home initiatives. There is growing evidence in both animal and human models that diets high in sugar and fat can play a detrimental role in cognition and should be of increased concern in light of the pandemic. 13

The family stress elicited by the COVID-19 shutdown is a particular concern because of compiled evidence that adverse life experiences at an early age are associated with an increased likelihood of mental health issues as an adult. 14 There is early evidence that children ages 6 to 18 years of age experienced a significant increase in their expression of “clinginess, irritability, and fear” during the early pandemic school shutdowns. 15 These emotions associated with anxiety may have a negative impact on the family unit, which was already stressed owing to the pandemic.

Another major concern is the length of isolation many children have had to endure since the pandemic began and what effects it might have on their ability to socialize. The school, for many children, is the agent for forming their social connections as well as where early social development occurs. 16 Noting that academic performance is also declining the pandemic may be creating a snowball effect, setting back children without access to resources from which they may never recover, even into adulthood.

Predictions from data analysis of school absenteeism, summer breaks, and natural disaster occurrences are imperfect for the current situation, but all indications are that we should not expect all children and adolescents to be affected equally. 4 , 5 Although some children and adolescents will likely suffer no long-term consequences, COVID-19 is expected to widen the already existing educational gap from socioeconomic differences, and children with learning differences are expected to suffer more losses than neurotypical children. 4 , 5

Special education and the COVID-19 pandemic

Although COVID-19 has affected all levels of education reception and delivery, children with special needs have been more profoundly impacted. Children in the United States who have special needs have legal protection for appropriate education by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. 17 , 18 Collectively, this legislation is meant to allow for appropriate accommodations, services, modifications, and specialized academic instruction to ensure that “every child receives a free appropriate public education . . . in the least restrictive environment.” 17

Children with autism usually have applied behavioral analysis (ABA) as part of their individualized educational plan. ABA therapists for autism use a technique of discrete trial training that shapes and rewards incremental changes toward new behaviors. 19 Discrete trial training involves breaking behaviors into small steps and repetition of rewards for small advances in the steps toward those behaviors. It is an intensive one-on-one therapy that puts a child and therapist in close contact for many hours at a time, often 20 to 40 hours a week. This therapy works best when initiated at a young age in children with autism and is often initiated in the home. 19

Because ABA workers were considered essential workers from the early days of the pandemic, organizations providing this service had the responsibility and the freedom to develop safety protocols for delivery of this necessary service and did so in conjunction with certifying boards. 20

Early in the pandemic, there were interruptions in ABA followed by virtual visits, and finally by in-home therapy with COVID-19 isolation precautions. 21 Although the efficacy of virtual visits for ABA therapy would empirically seem to be inferior, there are few outcomes data available. The balance of safety versus efficacy quite early turned to in-home services with interruptions owing to illness and decreased therapist availability owing to the pandemic. 21 An overarching concern for children with autism is the possible loss of a window of opportunity to intervene early. Families of children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder report increased stress compared with families of children with other disabilities before the pandemic, and during the pandemic this burden has increased with the added responsibility of monitoring in-home schooling. 20

Early data on virtual schooling children with attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit with hyperactivity (ADHD) shows that adolescents with ADD/ADHD found the switch to virtual learning more anxiety producing and more challenging than their peers. 22 However, according to a study in Ireland, younger children with ADD/ADHD and no other neurologic or psychiatric diagnoses who were stable on medication tended to report less anxiety with at-home schooling and their parents and caregivers reported improved behavior during the pandemic. 23 An unexpected benefit of shelter in home versus shelter in place may be to identify these stressors in face-to-face school for children with ADD/ADHD. If children with ADD/ADHD had an additional diagnosis of autism or depression, they reported increased anxiety with the school shutdown. 23 , 24

Much of the available literature is anticipatory guidance for in-home schooling of children with disabilities rather than data about schooling during the pandemic. The American Academy of Pediatrics published guidance advising that, because 70% of students with ADHD have other conditions, such as learning differences, oppositional defiant disorder, or depression, they may have very different responses to in home schooling which are a result of the non-ADHD diagnosis, for example, refusal to attempt work for children with oppositional defiant disorder, severe anxiety for those with depression and or anxiety disorders, and anxiety and perseveration for children with autism. 25 Children and families already stressed with learning differences have had substantial challenges during the COVID-19 school closures.

High school, depression, and COVID-19

High schoolers have lost a great deal during this pandemic. What should have been a time of establishing more independence has been hampered by shelter-in-place recommendations. Graduations, proms, athletic events, college visits, and many other social and educational events have been altered or lost and cannot be recaptured.

Adolescents reported higher rates of depression and anxiety associated with the pandemic, and in 1 study 14.4% of teenagers report post-traumatic stress disorder, whereas 40.4% report having depression and anxiety. 26 In another survey adolescent boys reported a significant decrease in life satisfaction from 92% before COVID to 72% during lockdown conditions. For adolescent girls, the decrease in life satisfaction was from 81% before COVID to 62% during the pandemic, with the oldest teenage girls reporting the lowest life satisfaction values during COVID-19 restrictions. 27 During the school shutdown for COVID-19, 21% of boys and 27% of girls reported an increase in family arguments. 26 Combine all of these reports with decreasing access to mental health services owing to pandemic restrictions and it becomes a complicated matter for parents to address their children's mental health needs as well as their educational needs. 28

A study conducted in Norway measured aspects of socialization and mood changes in adolescents during the pandemic. The opportunity for prosocial action was rated on a scale of 1 (not at all) to 6 (very much) based on how well certain phrases applied to them, for example, “I comforted a friend yesterday,” “Yesterday I did my best to care for a friend,” and “Yesterday I sent a message to a friend.” They also ranked mood by rating items on a scale of 1 (not at all) to 5 (very well) as items reflected their mood. 29 They found that adolescents showed an overall decrease in empathic concern and opportunity for prosocial actions, as well as a decrease in mood ratings during the pandemic. 29

A survey of 24,155 residents of Michigan projected an escalation of suicide risk for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender youth as well as those youth questioning their sexual orientation (LGBTQ) associated with increased social isolation. There was also a 66% increase in domestic violence for LGBTQ youth during shelter in place. 30 LGBTQ youth are yet another example of those already at increased risk having disproportionate effects of the pandemic.

Increased social media use during COVID-19, along with traditional forms of education moving to digital platforms, has led to the majority of adolescents spending significantly more time in front of screens. Excessive screen time is well-known to be associated with poor sleep, sedentary habits, mental health problems, and physical health issues. 31 With decreased access to physical activity, especially in crowded inner-city areas, and increased dependence on screen time for schooling, it is more difficult to craft easy solutions to the screen time issue.

During these times, it is more important than ever for pediatricians to check in on the mental health of patients with queries about how school is going, how patients are keeping contact with peers, and how are they processing social issues related to violence. Queries to families about the need for assistance with food insecurity, housing insecurity, and access to mental health services are necessary during this time of public emergency.

Medical school and COVID-19

Although medical school is an adult schooling experience, it affects not only the medical profession and our junior colleagues, but, by extrapolation, all education that requires hands-on experience or interning, and has been included for those reasons.

In the new COVID-19 era, medical schools have been forced to make drastic and quick changes to multiple levels of their curriculum to ensure both student and patient safety during the pandemic. Students entering their clinical rotations have had the most drastic alteration to their experience.

COVID-19 has led to some of the same changes high schools and colleges have adopted, specifically, replacement of large in-person lectures with small group activities small group discussion and virtual lectures. 32 The transition to an online format for medical education has been rapid and impacted both students and faculty. 33 , 34 In a survey by Singh and colleagues, 33 of the 192 students reporting 43.9% found online lectures to be poorer than physical classrooms during the pandemic. In another report by Shahrvini and colleagues, 35 of 104 students surveyed, 74.5% students felt disconnected from their medical school and their peers and 43.3% felt that they were unprepared for their clerkships. Although there are no pre-COVID-19 data for comparison, it is expected that the COVID-19 changes will lead to increased insecurity and feelings of poor preparation for clinical work.

Gross anatomy is a well-established tradition within the medical school curriculum and one that is conducted almost entirely in person and in close quarters around a cadaver. Harmon and colleagues 36 surveyed 67 gross anatomy educators and found that 8% were still holding in-person sessions and 34 ± 43% transitioned to using cadaver images and dissecting videos that could be accessed through the Internet.

Many third- and fourth-year medical students have seen periods of cancellation for clinical rotations and supplementation with online learning, telemedicine, or virtual rounds owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. 37 A study from Shahrvini and colleagues 38 found that an unofficial document from Reddit (a widely used social network platform with a subgroup for medical students and residents) reported that 75% of medical schools had canceled clinical activities for third- and fourth-year students for some part of 2020. In another survey by Harries and colleagues, 39 of the 741 students who responded, 93.7% were not involved in clinical rotations with in-person patient contact. The reactions of students varied, with 75.8% admitting to agreeing with the decision, 34.7% feeling guilty, and 27.0% feeling relieved. 39 In the same survey, 74.7% of students felt that their medical education had been disrupted, 84.1% said they felt increased anxiety, and 83.4% would accept the risk of COVID-19 infection if they were able to return to the clinical setting. 39

Since the start of the pandemic, medical schools have had to find new and innovative ways to continue teaching and exposing students to clinical settings. The use of electronic conferencing services has been critical to continuing education. One approach has been to turn to online applications like Google Hangouts, which come at no cost and offer a wide variety of tools to form an integrative learning environment. 32 , 37 , 40 Schools have also adopted a hybrid model of teaching where lectures can be prerecorded then viewed by the student asynchronously on their own time followed by live virtual lectures where faculty can offer question-and-answer sessions related to the material. By offering this new format, students have been given more flexibility in terms of creating a schedule that suits their needs and may decrease stress. 37

Although these changes can be a hurdle to students and faculty, it might prove to be beneficial for the future of medical training in some ways. Telemedicine is a growing field, and the American Medical Association and other programs have endorsed its value. 41 Telemedicine visits can still be used to take a history, conduct a basic visual physical examination, and build rapport, as well as performing other aspects of the clinical examination during a pandemic, and will continue to be useful for patients unable to attend regular visits at remote locations. Learning effectively now how to communicate professionally and carry out telemedicine visits may better prepare students for a future where telemedicine is an expectation and allow students to learn the limitations as well as the advantages of this modality. 41

Pandemic changes have strongly impacted the process of college applications, medical school applications, and residency applications. 32 For US medical residencies, 72% of applicants will, if the pattern from 2016 to 2019 continues, move between states or countries. 42 This level of movement is increasingly dangerous given the spread of COVID-19 and the lack of currently accepted procedures to carry out such a mass migration safely. The same follows for medical schools and universities.

We need to accept and prepare for the fact that medial students as well as other learners who require in-person training may lack some skills when they enter their profession. These skills will have to be acquired during a later phase of training. We may have less skilled entry-level resident physicians and nurses in our hospitals and in other clinical professions as well.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected and will continue to affect the delivery of knowledge and skills at all levels of education. Although many children and adult learners will likely compensate for this interruption of traditional educational services and adapt to new modalities, some will struggle. The widening of the gap for those whose families cannot absorb the teaching and supervision of education required for in-home education because they lack the time and skills necessary are not addressed currently. The gap for those already at a disadvantage because of socioeconomic class, language, and special needs are most severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic school closures and will have the hardest time compensating. As pediatricians, it is critical that we continue to check in with our young patients about how they are coping and what assistance we can guide them toward in our communities.

Clinics care points

  • • Learners and educators at all levels of education have been affected by COVID-19 restrictions with rapid adaptations to virtual learning platforms.
  • • The impact of COVID-19 on learners is not evenly distributed and children of racial minorities, those who live in poverty, those requiring special education, and children who speak English as a second language are more negatively affected by the need for remote learning.
  • • Math scores are more impacted than language arts scores by previous school closures and thus far by these shutdowns for COVID-19.
  • • Anxiety and depression have increased in children and particularly in adolescents as a result of COVID-19 itself and as a consequence of school changes.
  • • Pediatricians should regularly screen for unmet needs in their patients during the pandemic, such as food insecurity with the loss of school meals, an inability to adapt to remote learning and increased computer time, and heightened anxiety and depression as results of school changes.

The authors have nothing to disclose.


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    There is no denying the impact that the coronravirus disease (COVID‐19) outbreak has had on many aspects of our lives. This article looks at the potential impact of COVID‐19 on student learning as schools abruptly morphed into virtual learning environments using data from several instructional, practice, and assessment solutions offered by Renaissance.

  23. Impact of COVID-19 on people's livelihoods, their health and our food

    Reading time: 3 min (864 words) The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a dramatic loss of human life worldwide and presents an unprecedented challenge to public health, food systems and the world of work. The economic and social disruption caused by the pandemic is devastating: tens of millions of people are at risk of falling into extreme poverty ...

  24. #WhyIChoseEducation: 'My Teachers Had a Big Impact on Me, and I Wanted

    Between hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic, Meghan Larson's experience as a K-12 student was not an easy one. ... "My teachers had a big impact on me, and I wanted to be that person for other students," said Larson, a middle grades English language arts and social studies education major. "[Those experiences] were so bad, and they were ...

  25. Long Covid: Teachers, healthcare workers most vulnerable ...

    Teachers are the most vulnerable occupation to getting Long Covid, which can still affect people four years after catching the virus, a new study shows. University of Otago associate professor Amanda Kvalsvig led the research, which looked at an evidence summary around Long Covid. She told Morning Report Covid-19 needed to be taken seriously.

  26. The Effect of COVID-19 on Education

    The transition to an online education during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic may bring about adverse educational changes and adverse health consequences for children and young adult learners in grade school, middle school, high school, college, and professional schools. The effects may differ by age, maturity, and socioeconomic ...

  27. The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Female Labour Market ...

    The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected various demographic groups within the labour market. This research examines the impact of the pandemic on female labour market outcomes, focusing on the intersectionality of gender, parental status, ethnic migrant status, and occupational skills.

  28. The Impact of E-learning on Basketball Sport Education: A Comparative

    The results are expected to shed light on the efficacy of e-learning in the context of sports education, providing teachers, policymakers, and institutions with insights on how to best engage and motivate students in the wake of a global pandemic. ... S., Konteos, G., & Papalexandris, S. (2022). COVID-19 pandemic: the impact of the social media ...