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What Should the Main Roles of Public Elementary Education Be? An Exploratory Study Based on Survey Responses of Teachers During the Pandemic

Year: 2023

Presenter Name: Tessa Cahoon

Education is an important value in American society. Public schools are expected to fill many spoken and unspoken roles in our society: teaching academics, preparing students for the workforce, fostering engaged citizens, creating equity, and serving as community and daycare centers, to name just a few. The COVID-19 pandemic heightened the public's focus on education and magnified cracks and inequalities present in our educational system. During the pandemic, teachers were forced to constantly reassess their teaching priorities and adapt their teaching strategies and goals, all while dealing with the extra challenges (both personal and public) of the pandemic. The present study prompted an examination on the purpose of public schools, focusing on teachers' valuable perspectives. The central question guiding this research is: What should the main roles of public elementary schools be in our society? In order to address this question, an online survey was sent out to educators in seven elementary schools in City View District (a pseudonym). The survey's open-ended questions were analyzed quantitatively by grouping responses into themes and categories, and the survey's close-ended questions were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Seven teaching expectations were listed in the survey based on the 2013 Interstate New Teaching Assessment and Support Consortium (InTASC) and Utah Effective Teaching standards (UETS). These expectations focused on covering the content in the Utah Core Standards; adapting/updating teaching instruction; using culturally responsive instruction; meeting students' individual needs; building relationships with students; collaborating with families, colleagues, and other professionals; and maintaining physical safety. While the majority of teachers (76%) felt that the seven educational priorities were realistic during an average school year, the majority of teachers (72%) felt that these expectations were not realistic during the 2020-21 school year. The results indicate that teachers' highest priority is building strong relationships with students, and they are most likely to be successful at meeting this goal. The pandemic made it more difficult for teachers to meet all expectations, especially meeting the individual needs of all students, which was a challenge before the pandemic. Teachers also expressed the need for mental health support, both for students and for themselves, and overall, they felt they needed more support to be able to meet the many expectations placed before them.
University / Institution: University of Utah
Type: Poster
Format: In Person
Presentation #A32
SESSION A (9:00-10:30AM)
Area of Research: Education
Faculty Mentor: Mary Burbank