Families & the Community

Many Parents Now Want a More Personalized, Flexible Learning Experience for Their Children

By Alyson Klein — October 27, 2022 2 min read
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A majority of parents are now looking for a more personalized, flexible education for their children—a desire likely fueled by experiences from remote and hybrid education during the pandemic.

In fact, a little more than half of parents—52 percent— now want to “direct and tailor” their child’s K-12 experience, according to a report released Oct. 26 by the consulting firm Tyton Partners. That’s compared with just over a fifth who want to follow an “already established path.”

The research was done in collaboration with the Walton Family Foundation, which supports school choice and other options for parents, and Stand Together Trust, which is funded by Charles Koch, a prominent conservative who supports private school vouchers. It was informed in part by a survey of 3,000 K-12 parents, conducted last spring. (The Walton Family Foundation underwrites coverage in Education Week of how schools are providing a wider range of options for how students can learn. The media organization retains sole editorial control over the content in its articles.)

Roughly a quarter of parents say they are looking for at least one of the following: educational programming based around their child’s interests, personalized academic support, more innovative approaches (such as performance assessment and project-based-learning), and other kinds of leeway for their children (such as the opportunity to take courses virtually and more flexibility in scheduling.)

“What we’re hearing from parents is that they want to take greater ownership over their child’s education,” said Romy Drucker, the director of the education program at the Walton Family Foundation. “They feel like they are experts. [They’re] emerging from these last two years with a more holistic sense of what learning can look like. And not just academic learning, but the kind of learning experiences that are going to unlock a child’s interests and passions.”

Despite that interest in personalization, only about a quarter of parents appear to have enough information to customize their child’s learning experience, the report concluded.

Nearly 80 percent of parents believe that “learning can happen anywhere” according to the survey. But children from “underserved” backgrounds were less likely than their peers to have access to learning experiences outside of school including camps, courses, and classes, and community service opportunities, the survey found.

In fact, nearly 40 percent of students from these underserved families didn’t participate in any of the out-of-school learning options listed in the survey, compared with 24 percent of children from more advantaged backgrounds. (The researchers defined underserved as a family that meets any two of the following characteristics: Black, Latino, Indigenous, first-generation college-going, or low-income.)

“This signals a need for [providers] and policymakers to work together to maximize access to out-of-school learning and deliver more equitable pathways for all families,” the report said.

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