NEW YORK: In the midst of yet another school reopening plan in December 2020, MORE-UFT rank-and-file members decided to ask NYC DOE schools staff about their experiences with school reopening: neither the UFT nor the DOE had done an official survey of school based staff. (The DOE released its own Fall 2020 survey Jan. 19th, 2021 which will collect responses through Feb. 5th.)
1,143 NYC school staff completed the survey. 58.4% of staff surveyed work in a school that offers Pre-K or elementary school, meaning those staff members work in schools that, as of the time of survey collection, offered in-person learning. 40.2% of staff work in middle and high schools and 1.4% of respondents work in transfer of alternative schools.
Key trends we noticed among respondents:
- School staff do not feel adequately supported this year, in terms of training, learning models, staffing, and resources.
- Special Education and English Learner violations are rampant in schools this year as a result of inadequate staffing for the Mayor’s reopening plan.
- A majority of educators are teaching 2 or more learning models.
- Staff do not feel that the DOE’s COVID testing and safety protocols have been sufficient to detect and prevent cases in their school buildings.
- Staffing and programming issues related to in-person and remote students, learning models, COVID19 school cases, and classroom/school closures have created significant hurdles for consistent, safe, and effective learning for our students.
- A majority of staff surveyed are considering leaving the DOE and the profession of teaching.
- Lack of WiFi and devices remains a significant obstacle to equitable remote learning.
Overall, these results point to significant areas of concern around staff retention and well-being. Additionally, results suggest systemwide failures to prioritize our students with the most significant needs during this pandemic — including students with IEPs, multi-language learners and students without secure internet connections or work spaces at home.
When asked what was needed to support students safely and effectively, staff asked for devices and WiFi for students and staff; support from DOE and UFT Leadership; to address staff shortages; demanded fully remote learning for a number for safety, consistency, and instructional reasons; improvements in physical conditions of buildings; training to support remote instruction; and to support staff and student social-emotional needs.
A high school teacher wrote, “Everyone in the community is dealing with an extraordinary amount of stress right now. Both the teaching load and the emotional-social load of this job have increased exponentially. It is time-consuming and difficult to reinvent curriculum to make it suitable for remote learning…The DOE needs to face facts, accept that most students are remote learning for this school year, and invest in improving it (tech and WiFi for all; training for teachers).”