This back to school season, education leaders must listen to parents’ concerns
Over the course of the pandemic, The Education Trust–New York has conducted a series of parent polls about their concerns, experiences, and needs as districts continue to change and evolve what education during a pandemic looks like.
Our poll findings have consistently reinforced that what was considered “normal” before the pandemic didn’t work for many families across New York State — especially for parents of color — and the quality of remote learning missed the mark for many, leaving many parents concerned about their child falling behind academically.
As the state and districts move forward on reopening schools for the 2021-2022 school year, education leaders must address the concerns of families and provide options for their child’s learning, including high-quality remote learning. Additionally, districts must have a plan if schools close again that incorporates parents’ and students’ lived experiences.
We have the chance to reshape what education looks like and dispose of the notion of “one-size-fits-all” learning for students across New York State, and rebuild an education system that is stronger and more equitable than before the pandemic.
Below are some significant findings from our parent polls from August 2020, October 2020, and March 2021 that must be taken into account this next school year, regardless of educational setting.
How do families feel about returning back to school in person?
Families of color, whose communities have been most greatly impacted by the pandemic and have less overall confidence in the education system, and are less likely to want to send their children to school in person.
- Less than half (47%) of Black parents reported that they are less likely to send their children to school in person for the 2020-2021 school year compared to 74% of White parents (August 2020).
What concerns do parents have when it comes to academics?
Parents have been continuously concerned about their child falling behind, with heightened concern among parents of color and parents from low-income backgrounds.
- Eighty-six percent of parents are overwhelmingly concerned about their child falling academically behind, a concern largely driven by 72% of Black parents saying they are very concerned compared to just 50% of White parents (March 2021).
- Fifty-seven percent of parents of color and 64% of Black parents of high school students indicated they are very concerned about whether their child will graduate from high school, compared to 46% of White parents (March 2021).
- Among all parents, 83% indicated they are concerned their whether child will be ready for the next grade level. Those concerns intensified among parents of color, with 61% parents of color, including 69% of Black parents, indicating they are very concerned their child is ready for the next grade level, compared to 46% White parents (March 2021).
What do parents think about assessments?
Parents report state assessments would provide important information on whether their child is meeting state academic standards and on track for college and careers.
- Ninety-one percent of parents indicating the assessments would provide valuable information in both of those areas. (March 2021).
- Ninety-one percent of parents also agree that state assessments provide important information on whether their child’s school is doing a good job teaching their child (March 2021).
How have parents rated the quality of instruction throughout the pandemic?
There are significant concerns among parents from low-income backgrounds over the quality of remote learning.
- Families from low-income households are less likely to think that the quality of teaching and instruction that their child is receiving has been better than before the pandemic: only 27% of parents from low-income households say it is better now compared to before the pandemic, though they are less likely to consider switching their child to in-person or hybrid learning (October 2020).
What support and resources would be helpful to parents?
Parents want regular access to their child’s teachers and more support from their child’s school — such as updates about their child’s academic progress and regular access to teachers — yet there are major gaps between what parents need and what schools are providing.
- Ninety-six percent of parents say that providing regular feedback on how well their child is doing academically would be helpful, yet only half (52%) of parents say they have access to this (March 2021).
- Similarly, 96% of parents say that regular contact with their child’s teachers would be helpful, but only 52% say this is available to them (March 2021).
- Parents would also consider extra support options for their child if they are struggling academically (92%), but this is also largely lacking for most parents (39% have access) (March 2021).
- Black parents, parents from low-income households, and parents of fully remote learners are most likely to say they have received little to no information on grade level expectations (26% Black parents, 33% parents from low-income households, 31% parents of fully remote learners) (October 2020).
Access to reliable internet is a top priority for families — nearly half of New York families worry about whether they will be able to afford internet access.
- Forty-eight percent of parents of color and 55% from low-income households are concerned about internet affordability and losing internet access (March 2021).