How Districts Responded to COVID-19: Remote Learning and Other Benchmarks

Student desks atop laptop computer with green screen like blackboard.
(Image credit: iStock/NosUA)

Curious about how your district response to COVID-19 compares to other districts across the country? 

New research from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) provides insight into the kinds of remote instruction districts were able to offer and how they handled other key aspects of school management, such as instructional technology, meal distribution, and services for special populations. These statistics were gathered from 250 school district websites in early May. Most schools closed during the first two weeks of March and did not reopen for the remainder of the school year. 

5 Different Levels of Remote Instruction 

By early May, 97% of schools were providing some form of remote instruction ranging from grade-level paper packets of instructional materials to large amounts of direct instruction supported by technology. Here is the breakdown:

1. Instructional packets: schools distributed bundles of worksheets and other printed materials for students to complete.

  • 83% of schools offered packets
  • 52% offered packets with stated expectations of participation
  • 31% offered packets without clear expectations of participation

2. Virtual supplemental content: districts provided links to sites such as Khan Academy. This study does not count these programs as remote instruction because there was no direct instruction provided by districts. 

3. Asynchronous directed instruction: teachers used web-based platforms, such as Google Classroom, to push out resources and assignments that allowed students to return completed work. These platforms are the most common form of remote instruction for schools. 85% of districts use these platforms. 29% of districts used these platforms without expecting participation, and 56% of districts offered platforms with expectations for student participation. Platforms used:

  • 58% Google Classroom
  • 16% Canvas
  • 12% SeeSaw
  • 11% Class Dojo
  • 8% Schoology
  • 6% iReady

4. Synchronous directed instruction: live instruction with conferencing systems such as Zoom or Google Hangouts. 44% of schools offered synchronous platforms. 32% of districts expected participation while 11% did not express expectation for participation. Platforms used:

  • 26% Zoom
  • 20% Google Hangouts/Google Meet
  • 10% Other

5. Virtual schools: districts could transfer students to independent virtual school with independent and pre-existing curriculum.


Other Aspects of Remote Learning Management

Technology Assistance

  • 65% of districts provided devices:
    40% provided Chromebooks
    20% provided generic laptops
    11% provided iPads
    10% provided both Chromebooks and iPads
  •  68% had plans to help with home internet connection:
    55% reported their biggest need was general troubleshooting
    39% created partnerships with corporations for internet discounts
    25% of all schools provided free WiFi
    5% provided buses with WiFi
  •  53% of districts offered both

Contact with Students

Most districts encouraged teachers to make direct contact with students. 77% of districts responded they were in districts that did this. 47% of districts encouraged using more than one method:

  • More than half the schools used email between teachers and students
  • 36% used web-based platforms
  • 30% scheduled office hours
  • 24% used phone calls
  • 5% through a homework hotline
  • 47% encouraged using more than one method


95% of schools provided meals to students. 61% provided daily meal pickup and 57% allowed students to pick up for multiple days (up to one week). 


57% of large districts, 34% of medium districts, and 30% of small districts mentioned taking attendance with a 3:1 margin of those taking attendance to those who were not. 


78% of large districts, 58% of medium districts, and 53% of small districts posted plans for grading with more districts grading on performance rather than completion. 

Special education and English Language Learners

52% of districts mentioned specific needs of SPED programs with 45% of these not indicating any limitation or suspension of services. Only 30% mentioned ELL services and only 2% mentioned limitation of services. 

Visit American Enterprise Institute to read the full report.

Annie Galvin Teich has more than 25 years' experience in education writing and publishing. She is an edtech industry expert in content marketing and copywriting. As a regular contributor to Tech & Learning she focuses on the information needs of district decision makers.