Poll: Majority of New York State parents indicate strong support for a remote learning option as well as safety precautions and resources for in-person instruction

by | Sep 20, 2021 | Press Release

As students return to school, academic, health, and social-emotional concerns are top of mind for parents across the state

 NEW YORK – As students across New York State return to school largely in person for the first time in 18 months, a majority of parents indicated that they would choose a remote learning option if one were available, according to a poll released today by The Education Trust–New York.

That was true across racial groups, although Black parents were far more likely to say they would choose a remote option (72% compared to 55% of White parents and 69% of Latinx parents). The demand for remote learning was even higher in New York City, where 79% of all parents said they would choose a remote learning option if one were available.

Learn more about the findings here.

The poll, conducted by Global Strategy Group, comes as New York students return to school at a time the Delta variant is devastating communities across the country and the majority of school age children remain ineligible to receive vaccinations.

Although parents, by and large, said that they believe in a perfect world in-person instruction is ideal for their child’s learning (89%), in the midst of a pandemic they remain concerned about their child’s health and safety and overwhelmingly support numerous precautions schools can have in place, including mask mandates (83%) and requirements that teachers be tested on a weekly basis if not vaccinated (86%).

Parents also identified a number of academic and social-emotional concerns heading into the new school year, including whether their child is on track academically and whether they will receive the social-emotional and behavior supports they need to acclimate to full-time, in-person learning.

The results of this latest poll – the sixth since the start of the pandemic – underscore the critical need for state and local education leaders to listen to the voices of parents and act with the greatest urgency to provide their children with the resources and support they need to safely thrive this school year – including a remote learning option and clear plans for if school buildings need to close or students need to quarantine.

“In this unprecedented moment, we can and must do better for New York families, and that starts with listening to the people who know their children best – parents,” said Dia Bryant, executive director of The Education Trust–New York. “Our district leaders must respect the wishes of parents and offer families the specific supports they need to ensure that their children can learn, grow, and thrive – now and in the future. Parents agree that in-person instruction is ideal, and they are aware of the many challenges that we are all facing. We must do everything possible to keep our children safe and healthy so that they can focus on learning.”

“The COVID-positivity rate and class closures in just the first week of school have sadly validated the concerns and fears of thousands of parents and families of sending their children into school buildings,” said New York State Senator John Liu, chairperson of the Senate Committee on New York City Education. “Given that the virus is not yet under control and that most kids still cannot get vaccinated, it was irresponsible for city hall and the DOE to not have a remote learning option in place. In-person instruction is best, but only when parents feel secure about the health and safety of their children. We are now compelled to proceed with legislative remedies, including a state law to mandate remote learning under these circumstances. We thank Ed Trust–NY and the many parents for their efforts on this important issue.”

Among additional poll findings:

  • While parents are mostly satisfied with their child’s school’s handling of coronavirus so far this school year, they continue to be concerned about the academic development of their children — with heightened concern among Black and Latinx parents and parents from low-income households. They also said that they would find many resources, including free internet access, regular access to a school counselor, and resources for parents, helpful that schools are still not providing.
  • Parents, particularly Black and Latinx parents, are increasingly concerned about their child’s academic development and high school students’ transition to college and careers, and how the pandemic will affect their futures.
    • Black and Latinx parents were more likely to be very concerned about their child falling behind academically (63% of Black parents and 60% of Latinx parents compared to 52% of White parents).
    • Black parents were far more likely to be very concerned about their child being on track to go to college (70% of Black parents compared to 41% of Latinx parents and 46% of White parents).
    • Parents have a number of concerns about their child returning to school for full-time, in-person instruction, and these concerns have deepened since the spring semester. In March, 24% of parents indicated they were very concerned their child would need additional support to transition back to full-time, in-person instruction. This month 34% of parents reported they are very concerned.
    • More than 4 out of 10 parents report receiving little or no information about whether their child has suffered from instructional loss or has fallen behind grade level expectations as a result of coronavirus related school closures.
  • As New York school districts are set to receive additional resources and federal funding, including funding though the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the Coronavirus, Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRSSA), parents feel that it is important to prioritize academic and social emotional supports for students.
  • Although the vast majority of New York State parents report that their children are attending school in person this year (80%) – likely because few parents report having a remote learning option (20% hybrid, 12% full-ftime remote) – parents expressed a number of health and safety concerns for returning to school buildings.
    • More than one in three parents (37%) and nearly half of Black parents (45%) disagreed with their child’s school’s decision not to offer a remote learning option. Across all racial groups, the majority of parents said they would opt for remote learning if the option was available.
    • Parents largely prefer for their child to attend school in person (89%), rather than online, and trust the precautions that their child’s school has put in place for in-person instruction (85%). Still, the vast majority do not believe it is safe to send their child to school in person unless there are certain procedures in place, with greater concerns among Black (89%) and Latinx (80%) parents.
    • Nearly one in four (23%) parents report that they have received little to no information about plans in the event their child’s school needs to close because of coronavirus or their child needs to quarantine because of coronavirus exposure.
    • More than one in three parents (36%) and nearly half of Black parents (45%) report that they have received little to no information about plans for remote learning in case a child needs to quarantine.
    • Eleven percent of parents of a Kindergartner said they delayed enrolling their child because of concerns over the coronavirus.
  • Parents continue to be concerned about health and safety issues and the social-emotional development of their children — with heightened concern among Black and Latinx parents, whose communities have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
    • Although parents across all racial groups were likely to rate the job their child’s school is doing handling coronavirus this academic year as positive (79%), Black and Latinx parents were far less likely to feel confident in the health and safety precautions their child’s school has in place (30% of Black parents and 41% of Latinx parents compared to 58% of White parents).
    • Parents widely support a number of precautions schools can have in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus including requiring all students to wear masks in classrooms regardless of vaccination status (83%) and requiring all teachers and staff to be vaccinated or tested on a weekly basis if not vaccinated (86%)
    • Black and Latinx parents were more likely to be very concerned about their child contracting the coronavirus (69% of Black parents and 60% of Latinx parents compared to 51% of White parents).
    • Although parents indicated widespread concern about their child’s school supporting their mental health and well-being (94%), few report having received information about their child having regular access to a counselor (35%).
    • Parents across all racial groups expressed concerns their child will have behavioral challenges in a full-time, in-person classroom setting, with Black and Latinx parents far more likely to indicate that they are very concerned (40% of Black parents and 34% of Latinx parents compared to 28% of White parents).
    • Across all racial groups, roughly one in three parents indicated they feel uneasy about their financial situation in the coming months (35% of Black parents, 36% of Latinx parents, and 32% of White parents).
    • Black and Latinx parents were more likely to have reduced the size of or skipped their family’s meals as a result of the coronavirus crisis than White parents (48% of Black parents and 43% of Latinx parents compared to 37% of White parents). More parents reported reducing or skipping their own or their family’s meals (40%) than in March 2021 (35%), and parents are more concerned about access to meals and food for their child this school year (44% in September compared to 39% in March).

“’Getting back to normal’ is no longer an option as children return to schools,” said Larry Marx, chief executive officer of The Children’s Agenda. “This year, parents expect and deserve back-to-school means back to stronger health, safety, and caring supports. The stunning education losses children have felt and the losses in health and mental health supports they’ve endured – particularly families of color and families living in poverty – are palpable consequences of the lingering pandemic. Without providing those heightened supports, we risk a broken future ahead, not just a difficult time behind us.”

“Each day, students, parents, educators, and school staff are exposing their lives to the contagious and deadly coronavirus to make an adequate education possible for the next generation,” said NeQuan McLean, president of Community Education Council #16 in Brooklyn. “While an overwhelming number of parents value in-person learning for its many benefits, many families, especially those from disadvantaged communities of color, have experienced immense trauma that makes a return to normalcy extremely difficult. Many families are still overcoming the loss of loved ones, many live in fear for vulnerable family members, and many more just don’t feel emotionally or mentally ready to leave the safety of their homes. Even as children are more effected by new variants, education leaders are not giving families an opportunity to choose the safest way for their children to learn without having to risk their lives. As a community of stakeholders fighting not only to gain and to preserve an equitable and enriching education for our children, but now also their lives and future wellbeing, all parents, elected officials, community-based entities, and the overall education community, must come together to ensure that parents have a choice in deciding the best mode of learning for our children.”

“We know most students with disabilities academically and socially thrive when attending school and receiving special education services and supports in person, yet we also believe the state and city need to create permanent remote learning infrastructures for all students and families who need them due to health and safety concerns, short and long-term medical conditions, and documented psychiatric and emotional reasons,” said Lori Podvesker, director of disability and education policy at INCLUDEnyc. “We have an opportunity in this moment to rethink how we educate our children, taking into account their unique needs, learning styles, and parental preferences, and come up with a new system that is stronger and more equitable than before the pandemic.”

“As the pandemic continues to disrupt the lives of families across New York State, it is critical that parents have access to high-quality options that will ensure our children are able to learn and thrive safely,” said Samuel L. Radford III, past president of the District-Parent Coordinating Council of Buffalo and co-chairperson of CAO’s We the Parents. “We know that as Black and Brown parents our communities have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and we are less likely to feel comfortable sending our children into school buildings. It is critical that district and state leaders listen to the voices of parents, and ensure that all of our students have access to the resources and supports they need, whether learning remotely or in person.”

The survey had a confidence interval of +/-3.4%. All interviews were conducted via web-based panel. Care has been taken to ensure the geographic and demographic divisions of public-school parents are properly represented. For the purposes of this research, “parents of color” indicates parents who do not self-identify as White or identify as White but also identify as Latinx or whose primary home language is Spanish.