Updated parent poll shows more parents dissatisfied with distance learning than in the spring

Parents are more dissatisfied with their child’s current distance learning experience than in the spring, according to a new parent poll released Oct. 15 by the Education Trust–West. Compared to a similar poll conducted by the organization in March, parents are far less likely to rate distance learning as successful — 35 percent versus 57 percent in March. The poll results note that low-income parents were generally more dissatisfied with the distance learning experience.

Lack of reliable internet is a top concern for families, with 44 percent of parents concerned about whether their family will be able to afford internet access. This issue is more common for low-income families (58 percent), Latinx parents (52 percent) and those in Los Angeles (54 percent). Similar to the March poll, two-thirds of parents said providing free internet access to families would be very helpful, but only 35 percent said that their child’s school has provided this access.

The poll cites stark racial and economic disparities that could have a significant impact on public school students. Parents of color are much more likely to report that their child is solely in distance learning (82 percent) compared to white parents (74 percent), as are low-income parents (83 percent) relative to higher-income parents (77 percent).

More than half of parents said they would like more live, online instruction for their child. Slightly less than a third of parents reported that their child receives four or more hours of real-time instruction during the school day. While 94 percent of parents cite regular access to their child’s teacher as the most helpful step in supporting students and families, 44 percent feel disconnected from their child’s teacher.

In-person learning

About half of parents said they would like more in-person learning for their child than what is currently planned. The poll found that low-income parents and parents of color are less likely to have the option of full-time in-person learning. Six percent of low-income parents report that their child’s school is offering in-person full-time lessons, while higher income parents report triple the access at 19 percent. Students of color have a similar lack of opportunity, with 13 percent saying their schools offer in-person full-time lessons, while that number is 18 percent for white students.

Racial equity

The poll also asked about how parents felt their child’s school is addressing racism and racist practices, and how important that is to parents. About one-third said that leadership at their child’s schools speak little to none about issues of racial injustice. White parents are more likely to say that leadership at their child’s school talks about these issues (52 percent: a lot/some), than Black (41 percent) and Latinx (42 percent) parents. Similarly, while parents are generally satisfied (56 percent) with their schools’ approach to addressing and teaching about racism as part of the curriculum, parents of color are overall less satisfied (52 percent) than white parents (63 percent).

Three-quarters of all parents believe it is important for their child’s school and/or school district to hire and retain educators of color.

Health and Well-being

Sixty-two percent of parents are “very concerned” about the safety and emotions of their children now compared to 41 percent in March. This is more of a concern for parents with lower incomes (67 percent) than parents with higher incomes (59 percent). Most parents (67 percent) reported that their child’s stress levels are higher than usual, compared to just 45 percent in March. The increase is attributed primarily to parents with children in high school. Many of these students are altering future plans, which could also be contributing to the increase in stress levels. More than one in four 11th- and 12th-grade parents said their child has changed their plans after high school graduation due to the coronavirus.