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The New Look
of Back-to-School

Teacher perspectives on how COVID-19 will affect the new school year

We asked 1,000 U.S. public school teachers who use DonorsChoose to tell us what’s most pressing on their minds as this school year begins.

As COVID-19 continues into the new school year, “back-to-school” is going to mean something different to everyone.

Where students will learn

As the school year begins, most teachers and students will be in a blended learning environment, with time spent between home and school. A third of teachers say their students will learn solely from home.


Changes schools are making for reopening

Masks, hand sanitizer, and individual supplies for each student are the most common ways schools are trying to keep kids safe. Many are also rerouting foot traffic in the hallways, prohibiting field trips, and reducing capacity on school buses.



Will require face masks
at all times



Will provide hand sanitizer and/or handwashing stations

student learning from home

District support available to some or all students

Many students learning at home may have access to technology and meals, but other necessities like internet service and mental health resources may be limited.


“There will be a much greater need for classroom supplies as teachers have to change many things in their classrooms to keep materials, belongings and children separated. This expense will fall on the teachers. What once were collaborative community-based classrooms and grade levels will no longer be allowed.”

Gwendolyn, a teacher in Massachusetts

Most teachers don’t think it’s safe to return
to the classroom just yet.

Two out of three teachers think it’s somewhat or very unsafe to return to the classroom. Only 4% feel very safe being back at school.

how safe teachers think it is

Most teachers want to wait until health officials report infection rates have reached safe levels before returning, and 29% would rather wait until a vaccine and/or treatment is available.

When teachers feel it's safe to return pie chart

“I feel like waiting for answers is the hardest part.
It is a wait-and-see with the health and safety of students, families and staff members always in the forefront.”

Rosemarie, a teacher in New York

Teachers have mixed feelings about the start of the school year, no matter where they’re teaching.

Nearly all teachers reported feeling anxious, uncertain, overwhelmed, and nervous about the upcoming school year. But a good number are also feeling hopeful and excited about the new year.

teacher sentiment Student participation in oneline learning

Making the shift to online learning

Half of teachers feel more prepared to conduct online learning now than they did at the beginning of the pandemic last spring.

how prepared teachers are

Bright Spots

Teachers also saw some advantages to online learning last spring that give them hope for the year ahead.

“A few of my students seemed to thrive in an online setting. They seemed to be more comfortable and outgoing when learning from home!”

—Michele, a teacher in Ohio

“I communicated with families a lot more often. I called parents at least once a week to check in. I also posted updates or sent messages via our online learning platform.”

—Tracy, a teacher in Texas

“A lot of personal connections came from it because I communicated with parents more regularly. Almost daily!”

—Cheyanne, a teacher in Missouri

Students will face many challenges this year

Last spring, teachers in low-income communities saw lower rates of student engagement during online learning than teachers from wealthier communities; they also were more likely than teachers in high-income communities to report that most or all of their students struggled with lack of reliable internet access and difficulty using online tools.

Student participation in oneline learning
Student participation in oneline learning

*Schools where <33% of students receive free or reduced price lunch.
**Schools where >75% of students receive free or reduced price lunch.

COVID-19 is not the only thing on students' minds

Teachers expect COVID-19 to have a negative impact on their students this fall, but they're also worried about other issues negatively impacting their students. Teachers in low-income communities are 3% more likely to worry about their students being impacted by racial inequity than those in wealthier communities.

Student participation in oneline learning

The effectiveness of online learning

Only 7% of teachers consider online learning to be very effective.

Student participation in oneline learning

Teachers are going to need
a lot of support this school year


Top materials for
in-person instruction

  1. Cleaning supplies and PPE (79%)

  2. Basic supplies (57%)

  3. Technology (48%)

  4. Educational kits/games (31%)

  5. Subject-specific resources (29%)


Top needed materials for
online instruction

  1. Instructional technology to present their lessons (79%)

  2. Technology for students (53%)

  3. Basic supplies (47%)

  4. Educational kits/games (35%)

  5. Books (26%)

  6. Food / personal items to send home to students (25%)


Most requested professional development

  1. Online/remote learning instructional techniques (41%)

  2. Online/remote learning technology (20%)

  3. Mental health resources for myself/my students (8%)

  4. Social emotional learning resources (8%)

“We must show our students how to positively adapt to situations that are out of our control. Students learn behavior by seeing behavior so we must model the kind of behavior we expect from our students.”

Elizabeth, a teacher in Washington


We continue to support teachers
through the COVID-19 pandemic.

See what thousands of teachers are requesting
to begin this school year

Explore projects

About DonorsChoose

DonorsChoose is the leading way to give to public schools. Since 2000, 4.5 million people and partners have contributed nearly $1 billion to support 1.7 million teacher requests for student resources and experiences. As the most trusted crowdfunding platform for teachers, donors, and district administrators alike, DonorsChoose vets each request, ships the funded resources directly to the teacher, and provides thank yous and reporting to donors and school leaders. Charity Navigator and GuideStar have awarded DonorsChoose, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, their highest ratings for transparency and accountability.

Survey Methodology

A survey was emailed to 7,000 total teachers who have posted a project to DonorsChoose since July 2018. This survey’s responses were used to inform the data on this report. There was a response rate of 15% (1057 responses). Surveys were completed online between July 30th and August 7th, 2020, and respondents received a $10 DonorsChoose gift card incentive to complete the survey. Teachers from every state participated, and responses were equally split among grade levels.

Read the full report