In COVID’s Wake, Educators Cite Increased Respect for Teachers as Positive Outcome of Pandemic, Are Prepared for Significant Change Heading into the New School Year, with Social-Emotional Learning, Safety Concerns Ranking Most Important to Educators

Educator Confidence Report finds marked increase in teacher confidence despite challenges brought on by school closures

BOSTON – July 28, 2020 – Teacher optimism ranks surprisingly high even as most educators anticipate continued distance learning this fall, according to new research out today from Learning Company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH). The Educator Confidence Report, an annual barometer, now in its sixth year, for how educators on the front lines in schools across the country are feeling about the state of teaching and learning, found that the vast majority of teachers (75 percent) say they feel prepared to take on the challenges of what is shaping up to be a very different “back to school” and the Teacher Confidence Index has increased to 48, from 43 in 2019. In the wake of a school year upended by COVID-19, 62 percent of teachers anticipate an increase in respect for the role of teachers and 49 percent feel somewhat or very positive towards the profession (up from 34 percent in 2019).

Lessons Gained in a Trial-by-Fire Environment

HMH’s research, conducted in June with YouGov, surveyed more than 1,200 K-12 classroom teachers and 200+ administrators and found that, while less than 1 in 5 teachers (17 percent) believed their school was prepared for distance learning in the spring, they are ready to tackle the challenges of the new school year. Among the most positive outcomes in the wake of COVID-19, 63 percent of teachers said they have learned and are using new online/virtual instructional methodologies. More than half (55 percent) of teachers also cite an increase in the use of digital platforms to improve student engagement. While educators identified bright spots, they also recognize the challenges and believe there is still work to be done to ensure the nation is ready to effectively instruct students.

“Educators were forced to make quick, drastic changes last spring, and despite the disruption, our research shows their confidence in using and teaching with technology has increased,” said Jack Lynch, CEO of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. “There is still concern about the fall and what our ‘new normal’ will be, but the marked increase in optimism is a testament to the resilience, adaptability and commitment of our nation’s teachers, and the clear realization we all have of how critical and central their jobs are to a thriving society.”

Social-Emotional Learning a Priority

Distance learning hampered connections between students and teachers. Just 7 percent of educators were prepared to address the social-emotional (SEL) needs of students during the COVID-19 disruption and only 10 percent reported SEL was incorporated to a very significant or significant degree into distance learning programs.

With 77 percent of educators concerned about student social emotional wellbeing, it is no surprise that the vast majority (94 percent) continue to agree that students increasingly need more social and emotional support.

"Social-emotional learning has always been vital in our schools, but this unique time has made it clear that our purpose as teachers is not only to transfer knowledge, but to nurture students’ minds, bodies, and souls,” said CJ Reynolds, a Philadelphia-based 9th grade teacher and HMH ambassador. “To do our work properly, we must empower educators with the tools and training necessary to ensure every student is cared for and supported.”

Additional key findings from the sixth annual Educator Confidence Report include:

  • A majority of educators (74 percent) expect the teaching and learning landscape to look significantly different when the new school year starts. A greater degree of change is expected among educators of K-8 students, emphasizing how the youngest learners will be impacted the most by distance learning.
  • A majority of teachers agree (71 percent) that the COVID-19 distance learning experience has moved education closer to fully realizing the potential of technology for teaching and learning. Teachers worked hard to make the transition to distance learning, embracing digital tools and resources. As a result, 78 percent experienced an increase in confidence using educational technology. Two-in-three teachers say they used digital versions of print instructional materials (66 percent), followed by videos from an instructional program or open sources (60 percent).
  • Despite the anticipation of change, teachers are more likely to say they are staying in the field than they were in 2019. Thirty-seven percent of teachers with ten years of experience or less say they have “no interest” in leaving education, a marked increase from 27 percent in 2019. Only six percent say they will “definitely be out of the education field” in the next five years, and 11 percent say this sentiment is close to how they feel.
  • Inequity in the education system remains persistent, intensified by the COVID-19 experience. High poverty schools were far more challenged to make the transition to distance learning and overall, educators in high poverty schools have greater concerns and less optimism about the teaching profession. Like 2019, the number one barrier in high poverty schools (88 percent) is access to devices/connectivity for students. Discomfort with unfamiliar tools also grew more among high poverty schools as compared to low poverty schools during this time (up 19 points in high poverty schools, as compared to up 10 points in low poverty schools).
  • Educators believe that the support and engagement of students’ families is a critical component to ensuring student success (97 percent). This spring, eight in ten educators (82 percent) say they their school or district provided families with resources to navigate distance learning, while nearly three-in-four (72 percent) say they personally did the same. The same number (72 percent) say they made phone personal calls to families, which they found to be the most effective form of family communication.

About the Educator Confidence Report

The Educator Confidence Report is an annual independent study, distributed to a diverse national cross section. The sixth annual survey content was crafted and analyzed by learning company HMH and YouGov. YouGov programmed and hosted the survey with sample sourced from MDR's (Market Data Retrieval®) educator database. The administrative group included school principals, superintendents, curriculum heads and chief technology and chief information officers. Teachers from across the K-12 spectrum completed the survey. Math, science, social studies, English language arts and literacy, in addition to general classroom teachers were represented.

Learn more about the 2020 Educator Confidence Report here.

About Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (NASDAQ: HMHC) is a learning company committed to delivering connected solutions that engage learners, empower educators and improve student outcomes. As a leading provider of K–12 core curriculum, supplemental and intervention solutions and professional learning services, HMH partners with educators and school districts to uncover solutions that unlock students' potential and extend teachers' capabilities. HMH serves more than 50 million students and 3 million educators in 150 countries, while its award-winning children's books, novels, non-fiction, and reference titles are enjoyed by readers throughout the world. For more information, visit


Katie Marshall

Communications Manager

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt