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Technology access and mental health among top concerns outlined in Tennessee Educator Survey

The annual survey added COVID-19 specific questions for educators to answer amid the pandemic.

TENNESSEE, USA — The Tennessee Department of Education released the results of the 2020 Educator Survey on Tuesday after an unusual end to the school year.

The pandemic forced an adjustment to the usual questions. The responses from teachers and administrators show the concern among educators for their students.

Over half of school teachers and leaders responded to the regular questions on the survey, due May 1.

Forty percent of teachers and 44 percent of school leaders across the state responded to the COVID-19 portion of the survey. Their main concerns centered around student mental health and access to technology.

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More than half of responding teachers listed they're worried about barriers to accessing remote learning or students missing crucial services like meals and counseling as one of their top three concerns.

In the open-ended questions, responses and frequently used words differed slightly based on the area the school district is in.

For example, schools serving more low-income households were more likely to mention food-related words, like food insecurity and hungry. Districts serving fewer low-income families were more likely to mention words related to health, both emotional and physical.

Overall, "internet" and "access" were two of the most relevant words throughout the comments.

Two-thirds of educators in more rural communities reported that better internet access is needed to support remote learning. That's compared to about half of educators in urban and suburban communities.

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Teachers and principals expressed their concerns about how this digital divide may widen existing educational disparities.

In the end, educators said they care about the well-being of their students and want to see success across the board.

In addition to COVID-19 related responses, the TDOE report:

  • Nine out of ten teachers agree that their school is a learning community that encourages ideas and suggestions. 
  • One out of five teachers report spending more than 10 hours per week creating or sourcing their instructional materials. 
  • School-based mental health professionals signal a need to improve referral processes, with only half agreeing the process gets students the help they need quickly.