A crisis in classroom teaching quality is forcing school systems to "abandon once-ambitious student recovery plans," concludes a report by the Center for Reinventing Public Education. "Plans for tutoring and other customized help have been undone by leaders’ need to build (or rebuild) teachers’ core skills," write Lydia Rainey, Paul Hill and Robin Lake.
Leaders wanted to "accelerate" learning, which requires teaching at grade level while also backfilling learning gaps. Learning how to do that required "significantly more teacher training than systems were able to provide or teachers were willing to adopt," the report said.
"Exhausted" teachers focused on covering the basics. Even if districts could find trainers to teach new instructional strategies, it was hard to schedule training during the day -- not enough substitutes -- and hard to get teachers to show up for training, even with extra pay, after school.
As teachers quit, they were replaced by inexperienced teachers. “I do think the first and foremost issue is, ‘Do we have enough high quality teachers in our schools to do this work?’ ” one district leader said in the report. “And the answer is no."
The trouble with teachers explains "why test scores are not bouncing back as quickly as we had hoped and as quickly as they need to,” said Lake in an Ed Week story by Caitlynn Peetz. "Student learning fell back during the pandemic, but our study is showing … teaching also fell back. So those ambitious initial academic recovery goals have largely gone unrealized.”
Intensive tutoring was expected to help students catch up, but schools had trouble finding good tutors. One district that contracted for tutors said quality “varied tremendously,” she writes. The cost was high and the impact was "minimal." The district will scale back tutoring.
The report suggests asking local advocacy groups to recruit and train parents and community members to tutor students, and freeing federal Title I funds to pay for tutoring.