RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A survey of teachers from the State Board of Education showed the number one concern from teachers right now is addressing the impacts of learning disparities as a result of the pandemic. Teachers are now tasked with helping students bounce back from learning loss.

For parents, having kids back in the classroom is a big relief for parents.

“It’s been a blessing for sure and the teachers have been incredible, and the staff,” said Meg Bernstien. She has an elementary school-aged son in Raleigh. Making sure he was learning while she was working at home was a challenge.

“We were very fortunate and very lucky to put him in a pod with other kids and hire a nanny who became their teacher to help during the day to alleviate the pressure,” said Bernstien.

She said her son did well academically.

Tamika Walker Kelly, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, said other students are playing catch up. It’s created a challenge for teachers.

“To not only have to go back over the material, over the current grade level, their current content, current subject but also add in the information they did not receive,” said Walker Kelly.

Addressing learning loss

In a survey of teachers from the SBE, 23 percent said their students were behind in learning by six months. Another 36 percent said they were behind by a year.

Top 10 concerns for teachers
Addressing disparities in student learning24%
School staffing shortages15%
Assessing student performance and needs13%
Social/emotional support for students12%
Health and safety of teachers and staff9%
Health and safety of students9%
Reteaching students prior grade standards9%
Non-academic needs of students (e.g., food, safe environment) 6%
Transitioning between remote and in-person learning 2%
Planning for future school closures <1%

Walker Kelly said some students didn’t have equitable resources- whether it was unstable internet connections or unstable at-home learning environments.

“It really does affect student learning outcomes and so when we provide student learning resources- when our lawmakers are committed to providing those resources… then every student in our state can thrive,” said Walker Kelly.

As a result of the disparities, 28 percent of teachers surveyed said they’ve spent half their time re-teaching subjects from last year. Another 29 percent spent a quarter of their time re-teaching.

“Many of our students will experience growth during this school year and beyond but they need that additional support of more adults in the building who can help pull those small groups and do those remediations,” said Walker Kelly.

Coping with non-academic needs

Teachers in this survey also said they felt students needed more support with their mental, social and emotional well being this year.

Bernstien said developing social skills was her biggest concern during the pandemic.

Walker Kelly said schools could use more resources in this area as well.

“More school counselors, more school nurses increased support around [Social-emotional learning] so our students needs are met so them they are ready for learning in the classroom,” said Walker Kelly.

Almost 40 percent of teachers said their students needed this support much more than in previous years. Close to 30 percent said their students needed somewhat more support than in a typical school year.