5 solutions for fixing the flaws in online learning

Teachers and principals reported that instructional time and curriculum coverage were significantly lower in fully remote schools
By: | June 4, 2021

One-third of schools will maintain remote instruction as an option for all students post-COVID, says an ongoing survey of teachers’ and principals’ experiences of the pandemic.

However, as many educators have realized, teachers and principals also reported that instructional time and curriculum coverage were significantly lower in fully remote schools, according to the final installment of the RAND American Educator Panels reports.

Nearly 75% of principals in fully remote schools said math achievement had fallen below grade level in spring 2021, compared to 63% of principals in hybrid settings and 46% of principals in full in-person schools who said the same, the report found.

And, as many educators have come to realize, schools that were fully remote over the last year tended to serve higher percentages of students of color and low-income students.

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Also, remote students missed school and didn’t complete assignments at twice the rate of in-person students, teachers said in the survey. And while students in schools with the most children of color and the highest poverty levels had increased access to free tutoring, those students had fewer opportunities to work with reading specialists or in one-on-one sessions with teachers.

Finally, one-third of teachers who were fully remote most of this school year said they wanted to continue to do some teaching remotely.


As schools emerge from the pandemic, RAND’s researchers offer the following solutions:

  1. When spending federal funds, district and school leaders should rely on last year’s and ongoing data, particularly around absenteeism, formative assessments and students’ nonacademic needs.
  2. Researchers and policymakers should monitor instruction over the next school year to ensure schools have access to needed expertise and supports.
  3. Researchers, policymakers and district leaders should consider how the technologies adopted during the pandemic will support teaching and learning going forward.
  4. School districts and policymakers should assess how recent regulatory decisions support or obstruct remote learning.
  5. Federal and state policymakers should provide clear and consistent health and safety guidance to schools.