The COVID Impact on K-12 Education


In a survey of Mississippi teachers this month, half of teachers said they have considered leaving teaching altogether as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Back in May, a national USA Today poll said an astounding 1 in 5 teachers were unlikely to return to classrooms this fall due to the unprecedented changes in K-12 education this year. Mississippi has faced declining interest in teaching for years, and though this year could mean an influx of new teachers and even an increase in teacher quality, one thing is certain – the coronavirus pandemic has made teachers in classrooms prior to March lockdowns more likely to change settings or leave the profession.

A large majority of teachers conveyed dissatisfaction with the quality of instruction and/or services they have been able to provide, while half said they were satisfied with how their schools handled reopening this fall. Teachers, many of them also parents, have had to adapt to a constantly changing school environment, which has revealed both challenges and opportunities.

Even though teachers are dissatisfied with their ability to serve students well this year, one teacher noted they are doing “less fluff and more back to basics” and “covering more content than ever.”

Teachers had mixed feelings on teaching virtually this year: nearly half of teachers considered the experience an unfavorable one, with a third of teachers ranking the experience a 3 on a scale of 1 to 5. Still, Mississippi teachers saw the benefit of virtual learning for some students, including those struggling with anxiety or “crowded, loud, institutionalized” settings, saying they were “thriving” learning online at home. Another teacher concluded, “There is not a one size fits all in education!”

Even before the pandemic, virtual learning was on the rise as students with different learning styles, medical needs, schedules requiring flexibility, and more found virtual schools offered them an academic program that fit their needs and circumstances. Mississippi is not one of the 33 states with full-time virtual public school options, but a majority of teachers responding to Empower’s survey said they support the addition of such an option for students. A virtual school would reduce the burden on teachers to juggle in-person and virtual instruction, giving them a choice of teaching face-to-face or in a program dedicated to providing an online education to students who opt in.

In all, nearly 200 teachers across the state in mostly public settings weighed in on the pandemic’s impact on K-12 education in Mississippi. Here are the major takeaways:

  • 50% of teachers were satisfied or very satisfied with how their school handled reopening this fall.
  • 78% of teachers said they were not able to provide the same quality of instruction and/or services as they had been able to prior to March of this year.
  • 46% of teachers said their experience teaching online was unfavorable.
  • 40% of teachers said they had changed school settings or had considered making a change.
  • 50% of teachers said they had considered leaving teaching altogether.
  • 61% of teachers said they support the creation of a full-time virtual public school that any student in the state can opt into.