August 19, 2020

Educators for Excellence Statement on School Reopenings

August 19 (New York) — Educators for Excellence (E4E), a teacher-led organization, reacted to the news that Senate Republicans’ current COVID-19 relief bill would make most education funding contingent on schools planning to physically reopen.

“While I’m relieved to be starting this year virtually with my students, the fact is that worries about how we’re going to accomplish all we need to this year still keep me up at night,” said E4E member Melissa Dorcemus, a special education teacher at New Design High School in New York, NY. “Teaching virtually has really meant completely reimagining how I can meet my students’ individual needs from a distance and how to collaborate and co-teach with a colleague not in the same room. Last spring, teachers and administrators were scrambling to provide an ‘educational band-aid’ of sorts; this year, we need to systematically address the obstacles that keep all students from accessing an excellent education so they can heal from the trauma and upheaval of the last six months and get back on the path to learning.”

“Distance learning is undoubtedly the safest option for many in our country right now,” said Evan Stone, Co-Founder and Co-Chief Executive Officer of Educators for Excellence. “But we shouldn’t confuse ‘safe’ with ‘easy.’ We know that during school closures this past spring students and teachers faced technological hurdles, that it became even harder to reach and engage our most vulnerable students — students from low-income households, students of color, and students with special needs. And we know that teachers are incredibly worried about addressing learning loss and students’ social and emotional wellbeing. To help their students in these extraordinary times, teachers need tools to innovate to keep their kids safe, healthy and learning. A federal education plan must address students’ and teachers’ needs regardless of whether learning is happening at school or at home. To tie federal funds to opening school buildings is asking states to risk the health of their students for desperately needed funds — this is both unwise and unjust.” 

In May, E4E released Voices from the (Virtual) Classroom, a nationally representative survey of public school teachers exploring education during the COVID-19 crisis — what has been working and what hasn’t in terms of distance learning — and what teachers think the priorities should be when classrooms reopen. Key findings include:

​​Students from vulnerable populations are far less likely to have what they need to successfully participate in distance learning. 

When schools reopen:

Teachers’ top two priorities are to take additional health and sanitation measures and create smaller class sizes with staggered schedules.  

​Teachers say they are most concerned about academic decline (39%) and social-emotional issues (33%). 

​In the event of future closures, teachers say it is most important for districts or charter networks to have a plan in place to provide students with necessary learning tools, such as personal learning devices.