Findings point to need for state policies that strengthen oversight and transparency to address parent concerns
NEW YORK – More than a month into the new school year, a poll released today by The Education Trust–New York reveals significant concerns among parents from low-income backgrounds and parents of color about the quality of remote learning, even as their children are more likely to be learning remotely.
The poll, the fourth parent survey conducted by Global Strategy Group for Ed Trust–NY during the pandemic, underscores educational priorities that have been top of mind for New York families since school buildings closed in the spring. These include the availability of teachers and amount of live remote instruction, access to personal learning devices and high-speed internet, and student attendance and engagement.
The survey findings – including low overall satisfaction with remote learning and a wide gap between the support families say would be helpful and what their schools are providing – reinforce the need for urgent oversight from state education officials to ensure that students are not being left out, especially students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, English learners, students with disabilities, students experiencing homelessness, and other underserved students.
Building on the strong framework for school reopening that state education leaders issued this summer, the poll points to specific additional state policies that could improve educational equity during the pandemic: clearer expectations for the instruction, services, and supports students should receive during fully remote and blended or hybrid learning, and meaningful and timely data to shine a light on widening opportunity gaps so policymakers, educators, families, and other stakeholders can swiftly address them.
“Heading into the school year, we asked what the education system would do differently this fall to ensure that the same students who have been underserved before and during the pandemic would receive the most intensive support this fall,” said Ian Rosenblum, executive director of The Education Trust–New York. “We hope education leaders heed the call of parents by taking action now to improve the quality of remote learning and provide greater transparency on issues like access to teachers, technology, and whether schools are supporting all students.”
Among the findings:
- Overall support for schools’ handling of the pandemic. Parents of color (71%), parents from low-income households (63%), and parents of fully remote learners (65%) are less likely to rate their schools’ handling of the coronavirus as positive, compared to White parents (79%), more affluent parents (90%), and parents of in-person/hybrid learners (82%).
- Dissatisfaction with remote learning. There is low satisfaction with remote learning overall and among parents of color. Only 39% of parents rate remote learning as successful (ratings of 8-10 on a 0-10 scale, an additional 18% of parents say their child is not participating in remote learning right now) – meaning less than half (48%) of parents whose children have been participating in remote or distance learning so far this fall rate it as successful. These low satisfaction ratings are largely driven by parents from low-income households and parents of color – especially Latinx parents. While 68% of parents rate remote learning as better than last spring, Latinx parents (61%), parents of fully remote learners (66%), and parents from low-income households (60%) are less likely to agree.
- Health and safety remain critical concerns. For parents, their child contracting the virus (84% concerning) is top of mind. This concern is slightly more intense among parents of color (61% very concerning), parents of fully remote learners (63%), and those in New York City (64%) compared to White parents (52%), parents of in-person/hybrid learners (51%), and those in the New York City suburbs (53%) and upstate (50%).
- Academic concerns are a top tier issue. Fifty-nine percent of parents are very concerned about their child falling behind academically (86% total concerned). In addition, 54% are very concerned about ensuring that their child is ready for the next grade level (85% total concerned). Parents from low-income households (33%) are less likely than higher-income parents (38%) to think that their child’s overall educational experience has gotten better compared to traditional in-person classes. Families from low-income households are also less likely to think that the quality of teaching and instruction that their child is receiving has been better: only 27% of parents from low-income households say it is better now compared to before the pandemic, while 34% of higher-income parents say the same.
- Many parents lack information on their child’s academic progress. 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) or “learning loss” (52% Black parents, 50% low-income households, 49% parents of remote learners) – more so than white parents (27% little to no information on grade level expectations, 44% little to no information on learning loss) and parents of in-person/hybrid learners (27%, 41%). Families from low-income households are also similarly impacted when it comes to lack of information (33% little to no information on grade level expectations, 50% little to no information on learning loss) compared to their wealthier counterparts (25%, 40%).
- Parents are focused on the quality of instruction their child is receiving. Ninety percent of parents stress that knowing how much individual time their child gets with their teachers compared to other schools/districts is important, while 89% of parents say information on how much live-instruction their child is getting compared to other schools/districts is important.
- Parents want regular access to their child’s teachers and more support from their child’s school. The findings reveal major gaps between what parents need and what their schools are providing:
|Would be helpful||Child’s school is doing this|
|95%||42%||Providing regular feedback on how well my child is doing academically|
|95%||48%||Providing parents with regular contact with or access to their child’s teacher|
|94%||48%||Providing students with regular live access to their teacher, such as live online lessons or phone/video calls|
|94%||41%||Providing information for parents about whether their child is on track to meet the academic expectations for their grade|
|92%||38%||Providing extra support options that are available to my child if they are struggling academically|
|92%||38%||Providing technical support with technology to help families participate in remote/distance learning|
|91%||40%||Providing parents or students with regular contact with or access to a school counselor|
|90%||53%||Lending mobile technology devices like laptops or tablets/iPads to families|
- Access to technology remains a major priority. In addition to devices, the lack of reliable internet access is a top concern for families this fall, with almost half (47%) of New York families concerned about whether their family will be able to afford internet access. This is particularly concerning for New York City parents (61%) and Latinx parents (56%).
- Families face continued food insecurity. Forty percent of parents in the state say that they have skipped meals or reduced the number of meals they consume personally or reduced/skipped their child’s meals because of the pandemic, with Black parents (49%), parents of low-income households (45%), and New York City (51%) families being the most likely to be facing this problem.
The poll was conducted among 800 parents of children in New York State public schools from October 16-21, 2020, and had a confidence interval of +/-3.5%. All interviews were conducted via web-based panel, including 52% of interviews conducted via mobile device. Care has been taken to ensure the geographic and demographic divisions of public-school parents are properly represented.
Read the poll memo and explore other options at EdTrustNY.org/ReopeningStronger.