News Release

Characterizing remote instruction provided by elementary school teachers during COVID-19

Peer-Reviewed Publication

American Educational Research Association

Study: "Characterizing Remote Instruction Provided by Elementary School Teachers during School Closures due to COVID-19"
Authors: Michael Hebert (University of Nebraska-Lincoln), J. Marc Goodrich (University of Nebraska-Lincoln), Jessica M. Namkung (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

This study will be presented today at the AERA 2021 Virtual Annual Meeting.
Session: Technology Supports and Experiences During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Date/Time: Saturday, April 10, 10:40 a.m. - 11:40 a.m. ET

Main Findings:

While teachers in spring 2020 felt that 60 percent of their students were prepared for the next grade level, in fall 2020 teachers reported that only 50 percent of students had the skills needed to transition to their class when schools reopened. Additionally, 75 percent of teachers reported spending more time reviewing material from the previous grade when compared to prior years.

Approximately two-thirds of teachers reported in fall 2020 that reading achievement gaps at their school were larger than in previous years; however, only approximately 40 percent of teachers reported providing more reading intervention than in previous years. Similarly, approximately half of teachers reported that mathematics and writing achievement gaps were larger than previous years, but only 33 percent to 38 percent of teachers reported providing more math and writing intervention than in previous years.


In late spring 2020, the authors conducted a survey of a nationally representative sample of 428 elementary school teachers across the U.S. to determine how school closures related to the COVID-19 pandemic affected delivery of instruction.

Additionally, the authors conducted a follow-up survey in fall 2020 after schools re-opened to evaluate how the ongoing pandemic was continuing to affect instruction and student achievement. Three hundred forty teachers from the original survey mailing list responded to the follow-up survey.

Based on their survey results and Census data, the authors estimate that between 7.2 million and 11.6 million elementary school students may not have received any live remote instruction after school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020.

On average, teachers reported that approximately 60 percent of students were prepared to transition to the next grade level when their school closed. Although nearly all teachers reported providing some form of remote instruction, only 31 percent of teachers in spring 2020 reported believing that remote learning experiences were effectively promoting student achievement. Only 33 percent of teachers held live remote meetings with students daily, with an additional 39 percent holding live meetings once per week.

Teachers who served larger numbers of students from low-income backgrounds were less likely to hold live meetings with their students and had fewer students with reliable internet access. Over 90 percent of teachers in spring 2020 reported providing activities that students could complete independently at home daily.

Approximately 25 percent of teachers reported providing direct instruction in reading and math skills daily in spring 2020, whereas another 25 percent reported never providing direct instruction in reading or math skills. Teachers were less likely to provide writing instruction, as only 13 percent provided direct writing instruction daily, with 22 percent providing no direct instruction in writing skills.

Seventy-seven percent of teachers in spring 2020 reported they directly provided accommodations to students with disabilities in their class, and 82 percent reported that some other teacher provided services to their students with disabilities. In contrast, 43 percent of teachers indicated providing no accommodations for English language learners, despite 85 percent of teachers reporting having English language learners in their classroom.

In the fall survey completed in November 2020, approximately 40 percent of teachers reported that their school was either fully in person or was in person with the option for students to opt out. Approximately 25 percent of teachers reported their school used a fully remote instructional model, and the remainder reported hybrid or other instructional models. Forty-five percent of teachers reported that their schools' instructional model had changed since the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, as substantially more teachers (48 percent) reported their schools used a fully remote instructional model at the beginning of fall 2020.

Although only 25 percent to 28 percent of teachers reported providing daily direct instruction in reading and math skills in spring 2020 during school closures, in fall 2020 over 75 percent of teachers reported providing direct instruction in reading and mathematics daily, and 60 percent of teachers reported providing direct instruction in writing daily.

"Despite the tremendous efforts of teachers and schools, there is cause for alarm about the short- and long-term effects of remote instruction during the pandemic," said coauthor J. Marc Goodrich, an assistant professor of special education and communication disorders at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "Whether schools have reopened or not, it is imperative that educators identify students with the highest educational need, including students from vulnerable populations and students with low academic achievement, and provide targeted supports and opportunities for those students."

To request a copy of the working paper, or to talk to study authors, please contact AERA Communications: Tony Pals, Director of Communications,, cell: (202) 288-9333; Tong Wu, Communications Associate,, cell: (202) 957-3802


About AERA

The American Educational Research Association (AERA) is the largest national interdisciplinary research association devoted to the scientific study of education and learning. Founded in 1916, AERA advances knowledge about education, encourages scholarly inquiry related to education, and promotes the use of research to improve education and serve the public good. Find AERA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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