While most parents of K-12 students seem pleased with the communication and educational activities being provided by schools during the COVID-19 shutdowns, some are still concerned about how prepared their children will be for the next school year, according to the latest findings from a nationwide survey by the University of Southern California.
The USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research‘s “Understanding Coronavirus in America Study” reveals that out of 1,452 households with school-age children that were polled, 78 percent of parents said they were satisfied with the communication from their school and 87 percent have at least one child who is engaging in learning activities from their school.
“Districts, schools, and teachers had so little time to switch from in-person to distance learning,” said CESR education research scientist Anna Saavedra. “The fact that 87 percent of children are participating in school-provided educational activities is a bright spot in the survey findings.”
Nearly a quarter of parents, however, worry that their children may be ill-prepared for the upcoming school year. Latino parents appeared to be significantly concerned, as 37 percent said they were worried about how prepared their children will be for school in the fall.
The data aligns with key findings from a recent poll of 1,720 educators by the EdWeek Research Center. As of April 8, more than 90 percent of educators said they were interacting with the majority of their students, a significant increase from the 74 percent reported by the EdWeek poll in late March.
Additionally, the poll found that most educators are somewhat or very worried that students may fall behind in several subjects due to the coronavirus closures. Math in particular was an issue: More than half reported they were “very concerned” about that subject.
The USC survey also found that since the pandemic began, 14 percent of households with a high school senior said that their student has changed their postsecondary plans. Education Week recently reported that various anxieties caused by the educational, economic, and public health impact of COVID-19 have been leading students across the country to rethink their college plans and experts to predict that schools may experience a significant drop in enrollment for the upcoming school year.
As many colleges and universities are still uncertain about whether to reopen in the fall and households across the country are weighing their options due to the economic troubles of COVID-19, researchers are looking forward to monitoring the nature of respondents’ changed plans as time progresses.
“That 14 percent is just the first half of April,” Saavedra said. “That number could certainly change and we’re interested in looking at that.”
The study is an extension of USC Dornsife’s Understanding America Study, which has been collecting nationally representative data on the lives and opinions of the same 5,900 Americans since 2014. This first round of coronavirus and education-related data was collected between April 1 and April 15.
According to Saavedra, researchers are planning to look into parental attitudes and support for district policy decisions about students repeating grades, pass/fail grading, and what additional services are being provided to students as they continue to build upon education-related questions for the study.
As students continue to be schooled from home, researchers are also looking forward to tracking factors that may exacerbate economic, racial, and gender-based inequalities over time.
The survey did reveal some gender and digital accessibility divides: 43 percent of employed women reported being responsible for child care as opposed to the 7 percent of employed men. That’s similar to pre-pandemic reports, even though families’ home situations have presumably shifted some as more children and parents are working and schooling from home.
As for access to digital tools and technology, the survey found that only two-thirds of low-income households—those making less than $25,000 a year—have computers or internet access for children’s remote learning, while that number goes up to 91 percent for household incomes between $75,000 and $149,000, and to 98 percent for household incomes over $150,000.
The U.S.House of Representatives recently introduced a bill called the Emergency Educational Connections Act of 2020 to address those kinds of technological disparities.
“We’ll really be able to do more of those real-time sophisticated analyses as this goes on,” Morgan Polikoff, an associate professor of education at the USC Rossier School of Education, said of the ongoing survey. “Because we’ll be going back to these people, we can ask the same questions over time, but also ask new questions about changes that will be coming up.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.