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Researchers gather data to learn how COVID-19 pandemic affects teaching, learning in San Antonio

Urban Education Institute at UTSA produced three reports following survey to learn how COVID-19 impacted students, parents and teachers

SAN ANTONIO – The Urban Education Institute at the University of Texas at San Antonio conducted a survey to learn how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted students, parents, and teachers in our area.

Researchers collected data for the survey between May 22 and July 1.

“Students are struggling most with engagement, connecting with their teachers and the subject matter, and that’s leading to many of them checking out, not showing up to class or turning on their monitors but turning off the video feed,” said Mike Villarreal, director of the Urban Education Institute at UTSA.

Those are just some of the findings from a survey that UTSA’s Urban Education Institute found across eight school districts.

“We produced so far three reports summarizing our findings. Everything from how this pandemic has impacted student engagement, how it’s impacted the ability to teach, even the socioeconomics -- food, hunger, employment for parents and their families during this trying time,” Villarreal said.

The researchers surveyed about 250 high school students, 900 parents with children of all ages and 550 teachers from different grade levels.

“One of the findings that was most impactful in our research was how schools play a critical role, not just in the intellectual development of our children but in their social development and how those two are really interconnected,” Villarreal said.

The survey results showed 64% of students and parents reported that students learned less during distance learning. The survey also highlighted how many students are struggling with their education because they’re going hungry. Twenty-six percent of students and parents surveyed said they were experiencing food insecurity.

“They are having to step up and find employment, those that are working. We discovered 22% of those students have increased their work hours in order to help out their family. And two-thirds of every student who is working is saying it’s necessary, but it is impacting their ability to learn and to thrive in school,” Villarreal said.

Seventy-two percent of teachers said they had early challenges with distance learning. Teachers said challenges centered around technology access and use.

“On the other side of the screen are teachers who are working double-time, teaching in-person and online. (They) are not receiving the same kind of emotional connection that they previously received from their students and are feeling tremendously burnt out,” Villarreal said.

Villarreal said the Urban Education Institute is partnering with local school districts to use the data to improve policies and lessons amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m very concerned about how this pandemic will impact our students first but also our teachers,” Villarreal said.

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