Teaching skills took a decline during the pandemic, according to a report by an education think tank from Arizona State University.

The 2022-2023 school year was considered the first ‘normal’ year since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, restoring a few priorities that had been allowed to fall by the wayside. Including teacher evaluations.

Observing teachers’ instruction and students’ learning offered “growing clarity around the enormity of the challenges ahead,” post-pandemic, according to a report released Wednesday by the RAND Corporation and the Center on Reinventing Public Education.

‘Normal’ school year or not, there has been additional pressure on teachers to help their students catch up after more than two years of extreme disruption. Research into child development says that acceleration is the best practice – teaching students age-appropriate curriculum regardless of what they’ve missed, addressing missed knowledge as they go.

But many teachers have been going the remedial route instead, because it’s easier for them. Simply picking up where the students left off, without attempting to get them back on course to where they should be for their grade-levels.

According to school district leaders, teachers they observed in classroom often lacked the coaching they had access to prior to the pandemic. Many senior teachers who would have mentored are gone from the workforce, and districts struggle to keep teaching positions filled. Overstretched teaching staff can’t support each other, and inexperience and burnout work on both ends to erode teaching skills.

When doing classroom visits, the district leaders saw what they described as “poor pre-pandemic instruction.” That included putting students to work without any direct instruction, having low expectations for students’ abilities, unnecessary screen usage, and “classroom management skills that lacked ‘sophistication,’ ” according to the report.

Most believe that the cure to this is more teachers, so that teachers of quality will be able to thrive with peer support and without the pressures of understaffing.