Teacher & Principal School Report

Key Findings

During the winter of 2020 (December 9, 2019 to January 31, 2020), Scholastic surveyed 4,517 public school educators as part of the Teacher & Principal School Report: 2nd Edition. Amidst the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the summer, 790 of these educators were re-contacted (July 23, 2020 through August 4, 2020) to share their insights into the effects of COVID-19 on both them and their students. Each section below indicates the timeframe when the data referenced was collected.

Reading Serves as a Critical Bridge to Stem Learning Loss

School shutdowns due to coronavirus present an unprecedented potential for learning loss, as teachers share the effects of the “summer slide” among their students during a typical year. To help students continue to maintain and improve their academic skills, independent reading and access to books are essential. References data collected in Winter 2020.
  • Six-in-ten (62%) teachers share that they noticed a summer slide among their students in the 2019–20 academic year and among pre-K–5 teachers, this is even higher at 69%. They also report spending 50 hours making up for the effects of a typical summer slide—62 hours on average for pre-K–5 teachers.


  • Teachers in high-poverty schools are more likely to notice a summer slide than their low-poverty counterparts (65% vs. 54%), and spend even more valuable class time (65 hours) making up for this learning loss.
  • To help students continue to maintain and improve their academic skills while school is out, independent reading and access to books are crucial. Educators overwhelmingly agree (99%), reading books for fun supports students’ academic success.


  • The majority of educators point to reading comprehension (89%), academic vocabulary (88%), and reading fluency (88%) as the top benefits of reading fiction and nonfiction books for students’ academic development. Other benefits include: builds content area knowledge (84%), helps students acquire background knowledge (83%), supports overall academic achievement (82%), helps engage students in learning (80%), builds reading stamina (80%), builds conversation skills (74%), and builds writing skills (73%).
  • There is a clear need for independent reading beyond the typical school day. During the 2019–20 academic year, only 34% of teachers indicated that they set aside time every school day for independent reading, for 22 minutes on average. At the time, eight-in-ten teachers said this practice wasn’t happening to the degree it should, with 63% pointing to the demands of curriculum as a barrier to this happening more.

Discovering a Social-Emotional Lifeline Through Reading

Reading, and stories themselves, can act as a lifeline for students, teachers, and families during challenging times. Educators note that the social-emotional benefits of reading fiction and nonfiction books are wide-ranging. References data collected in Winter 2020.
  • The majority of educators (98%) agree that for students to reach their highest academic potential, their social-emotional needs must be met. And, nearly all educators (97%) agree that literacy is critical to students’ health and emotional wellness.


  • Educators point to the top social-emotional benefits of reading fiction and nonfiction books as: helps students understand people that are different than them (83%), develop empathy (81%), and see themselves in characters and stories (81%). Other benefits include: Helps students discuss challenging topics (78%), supports social-emotional health (72%), creates culturally responsive educational experiences (70%), helps better understand current events (70%), and helps develop resilience (60%).


  • The social-emotional benefits of reading don’t stop with books. Nearly all educators agree that using books, stories, and articles as a starting point is a powerful way to engage students in important conversations (98%).

Teachers & Principals Reflect on COVID-19 and the Academic Year Ahead

Educators share their evolving perspectives on their experiences, and the experiences of their students, during the period of school disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and their priorities and concerns ahead of the new academic year. References data collected in Summer 2020 and Winter 2020.


Programs & Services Provided During COVID-19


  • Educators report that during the COVID-19 school closures, food was provided to students outside of the school day (99%, up from 58% over the winter). Access to technology or the internet outside of school (85%, up from 48%), providing books for home libraries (54%, up from 44%), and mental health services for teachers (47%, up from 41%) also saw notable increases.


  • Also during this time, educators report that the availability of other support systems decreased: early childhood programs (64%, down from 78% over the winter); mental health services for students (69%, down from 80%); SEL programs (64%, down from 71%); and healthcare services for students (51%, down from 58%).


  • Even among programs that show an increase in reported availability, educators report that more is still needed to support students and families. They point to a need for more services that provide access to technology and the internet outside of school (63%), books for home libraries (44%), and food (31%).


  • During the COVID-19 school closures, community partners were more likely to provide assistance with access to technology and the internet outside of school (59%, up from 31% in the winter) and books for home use (37%, up from 23%). They were less likely to provide students with healthcare (34%, down from 55%) and mental health services (39%, down from 54%).


Encouraging Reading at Home During COVID-19


  • When asked in summer 2020, 55% of teachers reported that their students’ families understood the importance of reading to support achievement.


  • Nearly two-thirds of teachers (64%), said they encouraged or assigned reading more often than during a typical year during the COVID-19 school closures.


  • While 44% of teachers say they increased their efforts compared to pre-COVID to encourage students to read independently, only 14% of teachers believe independent reading happened more often during the COVID school disruption. More than one-quarter (26%) reported not knowing the degree to which this happened.


  • Similarly, while 27% of teachers report that they more often encouraged their students and their families to participate in read-aloud time at home, only 5% of teachers believe read-aloud time happened more often during the COVID-19 school disruption. Half of teachers reported not knowing the degree to which this happened.


Preparing for an Unprecedented Back-to-School


  • More than 7 in 10 educators (78%) say they expect to have fewer students starting the 2020–21 academic year ready for grade-level work than in years past.


  • The spring experience with distance learning brought to light a greater need for access to the internet and other learning resources outside of school (84%), to have families involved in student learning (73%), and to create strong connections with students (67%).


Implementing Distance Learning


  • In winter 2020, only 39% of literacy teachers pointed to digital programs for student learning as a resource need to provide literacy instruction to students at various skill levels.


  • Later in summer 2020, literacy teachers point to the need for digital resources and flexibility to support literacy instruction in distance learning. Specifically, they want programs that blend teacher instruction with digital resources (78%), digital texts that can be used for whole or small group instruction (74%), and programs that combine multiple types of formats and activities (72%).


  • The key things teachers need to know to support their students during distance learning include physical logistics such as internet connectivity (80%), how involved parents/caregivers can be (76%) in distance learning, and access to devices (66%). They also need to know how students handled distance learning from a social-emotional standpoint (60%), and how much autonomy they were able to handle (56%).


  • When asked about their school or district’s planning for distance learning in the 2020–21 academic year, only 35% of teachers agree that teacher voices and views are being listened to. Only 33% of teachers agree that teacher voices and views are being listened to in planning for the 2020–21 academic year overall.


Funding Priorities Shift to Reflect Distance Learning Needs


  • Teachers’ top five funding priories in winter 2020 were: overall teacher compensation (60%), additional high-quality staff to reduce student-to-teacher ratio (52%), social-emotional initiatives and programs (47%), high-quality instructional materials and textbooks (38%), and academic intervention initiatives and programs (38%).


  • Teachers’ top five funding priorities in summer 2020 shifted slightly, reflecting an increased need for digital programs and wrap-around services for students: overall teacher compensation (56%), technology devices and digital resources in school (51%, up from 24% in winter), additional high-quality staff to reduce student-to-teacher ratio (50%), social-emotional initiatives and programs (40%), and student access to wrap-around services, including healthcare, mental health care, etc. (38%).


Recognizing Students’ Social-Emotional Needs


  • The COVID-19 pandemic shined a spotlight on things educators have long known to be true: the importance of schools in providing social-emotional stability for students (68%), the importance of close student-teacher relationships (72%), and the importance of partnering with families for student success (70%).


  • Educators’ top COVID-19-related concerns are the impact on students’ social-emotional wellness (86%), students’ academic achievement (83%), and the health of students and their families (81%).


  • Nearly all (99%) of educators agree that for students to reach their highest academic potential, their social-emotional needs must be met. But, 86% of educators say they need help meeting those needs.


  • Only 11% of educators report that their schools were extremely or very effective in supporting students’ social-emotional needs during the COVID-19 school disruption, and only 12% say their schools are extremely or very prepared to do so in the 2020–21 academic year.


Teachers’ Outlook on the Profession


  • In spite of the many challenges they’ve faced in 2020, nearly all teachers (97%) continue to feel their careers are challenging, yet rewarding.


  • Overall teacher job satisfaction is down about 10% between the winter and summer months, with only 51% of teachers saying they are extremely or very satisfied with their jobs, down from 56% in the winter.

Professional Learning Trends for 2020 and Beyond

Targeted professional development opportunities for educators are important to ensure that they have the knowledge, skills, and support needed to help students be successful in any learning environment. In the coming year, educators indicate a focus on building their professional skills tied to distance learning and social-emotional learning. References data collected in Summer 2020 and Winter 2020.
  • Nearly all educators (91% in winter, 93% in summer) said they want more effective, ongoing, relevant professional development.
  • Additionally, nearly 4 in 10 (38%) educators say that they’re concerned about their professional development as a result of COVID-19.
  • According to summer findings from the Teacher & Principal School Report: 2nd Edition, teachers and principals pointed to the most desired areas of PD in the coming year as: best practices for distance learning (81% teachers and 69% principals), learning how to motivate and engage students in a distance-learning environment (78% teachers and 66% principals), and learning ways to support student social-emotional needs (53% teachers and 62% principals).
  • Across nearly all of areas of PD that educators said they would like to focus on in the next year, a majority said their desire for this type of PD had increased compared to this time last year.
  • Likely as a result of the rising social justice movement, increases are seen in related areas: 79% said that their desire for PD on how to incorporate anti-racism practices into the classroom increased, 71% said that their desire for PD on embedding social justice into the curriculum increased, and 69% said that their desire to be able to identify and understand the impact of implicit bias increased.

What Teachers Want in Children’s Books

Robust classroom libraries are essential to help school-aged children become avid, lifelong readers. Teachers share their desires for reading materials to add to their classroom libraries, revealing a need for books that serve as mirrors and windows for students, and an increased need for ebooks in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. References data collected in Summer 2020 and Winter 2020.


  • Since the winter, there has been a decline in teachers’ agreement that classroom libraries are meeting their students’ social-emotional needs (42%, down from 47%) and academic needs (55%, down from 61%).
  • Due to a shift to distance and hybrid learning, teachers’ desire for ebooks to add to their classroom libraries has doubled (31%, up from 15% in winter).


  • Among the top two types of reading materials teachers need for their classroom libraries are books that serve as mirrors where their students can see themselves in the characters and stories, and books that are windows into the lives and experiences of others—each increased by 20% over the figures reported in winter 2020.
  • Teachers also report a strong desire for more inclusive representation in reading materials for their classroom libraries. In terms of ethnic and racial diversity, teachers point to a need for more books that feature the following populations: Hispanic or Latinx (71%), multi-racial (70%), and Black or African American (71%).
  • In terms of diversity of physical and mental abilities, teachers point to a need for more books that feature the following populations: people with mental or emotional disabilities (72%), people with physical disabilities (70%), people of various religions (57%), and LGBTQ people (54%).
  • Nearly all educators (96%) agree providing year-round access to books at home is important to enhancing student achievement, and 43% of educators note that the COVID-19 pandemic has made them realize how important schools are in providing this access.

Equity in Education

Focus on Literacy