Data

Will Coronavirus Hobble Yet Another National Education Survey?

By Sarah D. Sparks — January 05, 2021 2 min read
Illustration of a person taking a survey.

The pandemic has dramatically changed how schools run and teachers teach, but that disruption may also undermine one of federal and state policymakers’ key windows to what is happening in education on the ground.

The National Teacher and Principal Survey, run by the National Center for Education Statistics, is the last for NCES this school year—and the latest to be hindered by instability across schools since last spring.

“Response rates are lower across the board,” said Maura Spiegelman, the study director for the survey program.

The study is usually conducted in September, as soon as school begins, she said. But this year, many schools started significantly later because of the coronavirus, and have shut down periodically throughout the fall. IES did not begin contacting schools until October. It’s also been harder to reach principals of some 10,000 public and 3,000 private schools and 50,000 teachers for the sample.

Bigger Data Needs

NCES has pinned more data needs than usual on the survey, which was last conducted in 2017-18. The center has already canceled or pushed back almost all of its surveys, either because they would cause too much of a burden on educators or because NCES staff cannot safely go to schools to conduct them. In November, the Education Department’s statistical agency even postponed the Nation’s Report Card set for 2021, a first for the assessment.

If significantly fewer teachers and principals respond to the survey, it may not be able to provide reliable state-level data for understanding district needs and differences in how teachers and principals are coping with instruction during the pandemic.

“It’s really the Department of Education’s primary source of information about K-12 schools directly from the perspective of staff in those schools, and we collect information that’s not available from other sources,” Spiegelman said.

NCES collects in-depth information on school structure, teacher background, training, pay, and professional development, class size, and other issues. It was collected under the Schools and Staffing survey from 1987 through 2011, when it was redesigned as the NTPS to include more data on teacher and principal labor issues.Data are collected every two to three years and often used to shape state and federal education policies and budgets. This year, in addition to typical data, the survey also includes questions about how schools are adapting instruction for remote learning, changes in school nurses as well as mental health support staff, and other pandemic-specific topics.

For example, NTPS data released before the pandemic found little more than half of schools in 2017-18 had at least one full-time school nurse, with rural schools the least likely to have full-time medical staff.

So far, there have been no trends in which kinds of schools have responded to the survey, and Spiegelman said data collection will remain open through the end of the school year. However, responses have varied from state to state, which could make it difficult to provide more detailed information from region to region.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Here to Stay – Pandemic Lessons for EdTech in Future Development
What technology is needed in a post pandemic district? Learn how changes in education will impact development of new technologies.
Content provided by AWS
School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Strategies & Tips for Complex Decision-Making
Schools are working through the most disruptive period in the history of modern education, facing a pandemic, economic problems, social justice issues, and rapid technological change all at once. But even after the pandemic ends,
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Education Funding Webinar
From Crisis to Opportunity: How Districts Rebuild to Improve Student Well-Being
K-12 leaders discuss the impact of federal funding, prioritizing holistic student support, and how technology can help.
Content provided by Salesforce.org

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Data Spotlight Spotlight on Student Data
In this Spotlight, discover how students perform on national tests and more.
Data Knowing How Students and Teachers Use Tech Is Vital
Data on the usage of educational technology tools can provide districts with a helpful road map for improving student engagement under remote, in-person, or hybrid learning conditions. See how school districts are using such data to make smart, strategic decisions.
5 min read
Ainslie Illig, 8, works on her computer at home in Ebensburg, Pa., during school closures last spring. Schools are putting together strategies for improving student and teacher engagement with online learning tools for the 2020-21 academic year.
Ainslie Illig, 8, works on her computer at home in Ebensburg, Pa., during school closures last spring. Schools are putting together strategies for improving student and teacher engagement with online learning tools for the 2020-21 academic year.
Kara Illig via AP
Data Thousands of Schools Are Falling Short on Students' Data Privacy Rights, Report Says
Parents and students can opt out from schools disclosing personal information, but many schools don't make that option clear to families.
3 min read
Data Coronavirus and School Research: A Major Disruption and Potential Opportunity
The pandemic is putting the kibosh on education research around the world, but it's also opening up opportunities to study new ways of learning in new environments.
8 min read
BRIC ARCHIVE
iStock/Getty Images Plus