The nation’s top teachers say family stress and poverty are their students’ biggest hurdles when it comes to learning in the classroom, according to a survey released Wednesday.
Jennifer Dorman, Maine’s 2015 Teacher of the Year, told The Washington Post that helping her students cope with these outside-of-the-classroom barriers to academic success is the most important part of her job.
“But on a national level, those problems are not being recognized as the primary obstacles,” said Dorman.
Scholastic, Inc. partnered with the Council of Chief State School Officers to survey the 2015 state Teachers of the Year. All but ten of the 56 TOYs responded.
Other barriers to student success? Learning and psychological problems, English language challenges, substance abuse, bullying and inadequate nutrition, in that order, were other problems ranked by teachers.
Another finding from the survey, highlighted by WaPo’s Lyndsey Layton, was teachers’ dissatisfaction with analyzing data.
The unpopularity of data is surprising in an era when schools and teachers are urged to adopt data-driven instruction.
Mark Mautone, New Jersey’s Teacher of the Year, relies heavily on data to fine-tune his work with autistic students at an elementary school in Hoboken.
“At the same time, there are other things that do drive instruction — poverty, family stress, all those multiple measures that could affect the outcome,” Mautone said. “Data is important, but if a kid doesn’t have clothes to wear or a pencil to do their homework, the main concern becomes the well-being of the child.”