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Poll: Their Kids Learned Less, But Parents Satisfied With Remote Education

The parents of nearly three-quarters of students in a recent poll believe their children learned less during remote instruction than they would have if they'd been in school for face-to-face lessons, according to a new Education Next survey released Wednesday.

And parents of a whopping 40 percent of students said their children had no one-on-one meetings with their teachers during that period. 

Still, a majority of them—72 percent—said they were satisfied with the activities and instruction that their children's schools provided during COVID-19's prolonged disruption of schooling.

Those seemingly at-odds results were part of a poll conducted in mid-May to gauge parents' and teachers' perceptions of the remote instruction period.

Answers varied based on whether students attended traditional district, charter, or private schools, the school's demographics, as well as the parents' race and income levels.

The nationally representative poll lands as school districts are under increasing pressure to craft reopening plans for the 2020-21 academic year and as they conduct cost-benefit analyses of the different reopening options that take into account both academic and health consequences.

Remote learning—by far the safest option for districts amid the pandemic—has also revealed glaring inequities and has placed a heavy burden on parents and teachers who have to juggle both work and school.

A June poll released by The Education Trust-New York found that parents became more disillusioned with distance learning as time progressed.  About 57 percent of parents who responded to a similar poll in March said remote learning was successful, but that number fell to about 43 percent in June. 

And there was as huge gap in perception based on income, with nearly half of higher income parents—48 percent—saying that remote learning was successful, compared with 36 percent of lower-income parents.

And while parents in the New York poll said they valued face-to-face interactions with teachers, that was not often the case, especially for parents of color.  Slightly more than half of parents (56 percent) said they had regular teacher interaction, while just 53 percent said their children regularly had "live" classes.

Fifty-two percent of Black and Hispanic parents said their children had access to live instruction, phone calls, or video calls regularly with their teachers, while 57 percent of white parents said that was the case. 

Parents earning more than $100,000 also were more likely to report more teacher feedback during that period than low-income parents.

The Education Next poll also showed a disconnect between teachers' and parents' perception of remote learning.

Teachers took a dimmer view of the kind of learning that was taking place during the shutdown. While parents of 71 percent of the students said their children learned less, 87 percent of teachers thought the same. And while parents of 72 percent of the students said that their children had "required assignments multiple times a week," just a little more than half of teachers said that they assigned work that regularly, according to Education Next.

Parents whose children attended charter and private schools were more likely to report that teachers covered new content during that period, more required assignments, and whole-class meetings. Those parents were generally more satisfied with instruction than their counterparts in traditional public schools.

Parents of charter school students also reported more face-to-face interactions than other sectors and a higher percentage reported daily or weekly feedback than parents whose children attend regular district schools ( 60 vs. 46 percent). And while the majority of all parents said their children learned less during the shutdown, a smaller percentage of charter school parents did so. Parents of 30 percent of the charter school students said their children learned more during the remote learning period, according to the poll.

Black and Hispanic children were less likely to be exposed to new material during the shutdown. While about 77 percent of white children had access to "mostly" new material during the shutdown, that percentage fell slightly to 72 percent for Hispanic children and 67 percent for Black children. 

Parents of about a third of elementary school students said they did not receive grades or feedback on assignments during the closure. 

Parents of Black and Hispanic students also reported that they spent more time helping their children with at-home schooling. White parents said they averaged 3.1 hours a day with their children on school work, Black parents reported spending 4.3 hours, while Hispanic parents said they spent 3.9 hours doing so.  

Teachers, however, seem to have spent more time trying to reach out to Black and Hispanic students during the shutdown.

While about 30 percent of white parents said they interacted with teachers either by phone or on the internet at least once a week, nearly half of the Black parents and 55 percent of Hispanic parents said they connected with teachers either by phone or on the internet at least once a week. 

And among the three different types of schools, charter schools were most likely to have contact with students, according to the poll.

The survey was conducted between May 14 and May 20. The results are from 1,249 parents with children in K-12 schools. The survey also included data from 490 K-12 teachers. 

You can dig into the poll results here.

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