By Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech
A new survey from MORE-UFT, the justice caucus of teacher’s union the United Federation of Teachers, reports that 60% of New York City public school teachers would leave their post with the Department of Education if they could after enduring one of the most challenging school year’s in city history.
MORE sent the Google form survey to public school teachers and staffers on email Listserv and posted it on their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and website. Over 1, 140 staffers filled out the survey between Dec. 15 and Dec. 29th of last year.
The largest number of survey responses came from teachers and school staff working in school building five times a week while the second-largest came from employees following the city’s hybrid model and working both in-person and remotely.
Out of those respondents, 58.4% said they work in Pre-K or elementary school, 40.2% reported working in a middle or high school, and 1.4% in a transfer or alternative school.
MORE noticed a number of trends in respondents’ answers on school staffing, remote learning, and overall morale. According to the survey, the majority of school staff, in general, do not feel adequately supported this year in terms of staffing, school resources, and remote learning training and a large number of educators reported teaching two or more learning models.
Many teachers said that they do not feel that the DOE’s COVID-19 testing and safety protocols are sufficient for detecting and preventing cases in their school building and staffing shortages have created “significant hurdles” for “consistent, safe and effective learning,” and have caused special education and English Learning violations to become “rampant.”
“There is a lot of pandemic induced trauma on top of the trauma that comes from being a recent immigrant/learner of English” wrote Tim McCarthy, a high school teacher who agreed to have his survey response shared. ” This lack of support, general uncertainty and anxiety, and struggles with hybrid or completely online learning, are adding to the trauma and hardships that many immigrant families in our city are facing – food, income, healthcare, and housing insecurity, all during a global pandemic.”
According to a MORE survey summary, three-quarters of staffers that responded “somewhat” or “totally” disagreed that the DOE’s testing plan has been adequate to detect cases in schools and three-quarters also reported being in the same room as students eat lunch unmasked. This sentiment shared by UFT President Michael Mulgrew who urged the city to slow down its school reopening process stating that the city was struggling to just roll out testing at elementary schools.
“In-school testing that should provide an early warning system for rising infection rates is already strained, making it unlikely that the system could meet the challenge of testing a significant number of reopened middle or high schools,” Mulgrew wrote in a Daily News op-ed. “New York can’t let its success in re-opening its schools be undermined by trying to open more schools beyond the city’s realistic testing capacity, or by keeping schools open in the face of a significant increase in community infections.”
In addition, many teachers said in the MORE survey that a lack WiFi and devices are still an issue in their school despite Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza reporting that the DOE has filled out all remote learning device request made at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year. Over 35 % of respondents reported that some of their students still devices needed for remote learning, according to the final summary.
In response, the DOE stressed that respondents made up a very small fraction of the city’s roughly 120,000 staff members.
“These survey results are from an unrepresentative sample of less than one percent of our staff, and we encourage all staff to fill out our survey for formal feedback,” said DOE spokesperson Danielle Filson. “Our teacher retirements and resignations are at an all-time low since the start of this administration, and we are constantly doing more to support and develop our school staff.”