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Teachers struggle to reach students during Hawaii schools’ shutdown

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                                <strong>“We must invest in equity of access now.”</strong>
                                <strong>Christina Kishimoto</strong>
                                <em>Superintendent, state Department of Education</em>


    “We must invest in equity of access now.”

    Christina Kishimoto

    Superintendent, state Department of Education

New survey results show that secondary school teachers in Hawaii had little success in keeping students on track academically after public schools shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Just 10% of Hawaii middle and high school teachers who responded to a confidential online survey reported that 60% to 100% of their students “consistently participated in distance learning” during the closure of schools.

At the elementary level the figure was somewhat higher, with 31% of teachers reporting that more than 60% of their students participated consistently.

The data comes from a survey conducted during the last two weeks of the academic year, while students and teachers were working from home. Altogether, 8,324 teachers responded to the survey out of a pool of 13,578, a robust return rate of 61%.

Panorama Education conducted three confidential surveys — of teachers, secondary students and parents — as a free service to the public schools. The survey of parents and guardians is still underway online through Tuesday and is available in five languages online at DistanceLearningSurvey.

So far, more than 18,000 surveys have been submitted by parents, and results will be released next month. There are 180,000 students in public school from kindergarten through 12th grade in the state.

The teacher and student surveys covered access to devices for distance learning and student engagement during the extended school closure after spring break. They also assessed the professional needs of teachers and students’ well-being.

“We have the opportunity to use what we learned about equity of access to make permanent, innovative improvements to our digital learning approach to better engage our students, particularly our most vulnerable learners,” schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said in a statement. “We must invest in equity of access now.”

The Panorama Education Dashboard, available online, allows the public to view statewide data from those surveys as well as drill down to the complex-area level. It can be access online at HIDOEDistanceLearning SurveyDashboard.

Teachers reported widely varying success in connecting with their students, depending on the community and grade level. The younger the student, the more likely that teachers reached them on a regular basis.

Secondary school teachers handle many more students than those at the elementary level. A high school teacher might teach math to 90 or 100 students over the course of a day, while elementary teachers typically might have 25 students in a class.

The results suggest that teachers could not reach everyone — either consistently or intermittently. Among secondary school teachers, 45% reported they were able to reach more than 60% of their students, while a fifth reported that they had made contact with fewer than 20% of their students. In elementary school, 73% reached more than 60% of their students. Meanwhile, 6% of teachers reported reaching less than 20% of their class.

About 45% of teachers reported they were quite or extremely confident using the technology tools provided by the school for distance learning, while 22% reported they were slightly or not at all confident.

The most common barriers for teachers to distance learning were lack of quiet work space at home and the need for child care. For students it was the need to care for their brothers or sisters.

“The survey results will help to gauge the department’s readiness for distance learning as it relates to student access to devices, student home connectivity, and student capacity for distance learning,” said Teri Ushijima, director of the public schools’ Assessment and Accountability Branch. “This, along with data collection from school principals and the results from the family distance-learning survey, will provide informed considerations for complex areas and schools to use when prioritizing and allocating resources, such as technology and connectivity for students and families.”

The student survey was conducted online, and 8,661 kids in seventh through 12th grade responded, out of 88,900 secondary students statewide. The results are likely not reflective of the full population, especially those without internet access. The survey was promoted through flyers at grab-and-go meal services on campus, and Department of Education homeless liaisons made it available to children with unstable housing lacking internet access.

Those students who responded said they were more involved in schoolwork than teachers had reported overall. Roughly 83% of the students said they had consistently participated in distance learning through online devices, while 22% said they consistently participated with paper assignments. Two-thirds had joined a videoconference with their class.

As for device access, 71% of students said they had access to enough online devices during the closure for everyone in their household to use at the same time. About 29% said they borrowed devices from their school. Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students had less access to devices at home, but more of them reported borrowing them during the shutdown.

Nearly 70% of students reported that teachers were quite or extremely supportive of their learning, while 3% said they were “not at all” helpful.

About 22% of students reported being extremely or quite concerned about their social and emotional well-being, with an equal number somewhat concerned. But 85% of students said they had an adult or teacher at school whom they could count on for help if needed.

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