Distance Learning Parent Survey: The Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on NC K-12 Educational Experiences
A total of 835 North Carolina parents/guardians answered the survey, including parents with children attending traditional public, public charter, private, or home schools. The survey was conducted from June 1 through June 22, 2020. The majority of parents (59%) have children in elementary school, followed by middle school (24%) and high school (16%).
Of the total participants, a majority reported their school’s transition description as “shifted to online instruction (digital) with formal curricula of required assignments, lessons, homework, etc” (66%). Of the remaining participants, 27% reported their schools as “supporting students by providing resources and with some formal curricula with optional assignments,” 2% reported their schools transitioned to “full closure,” and 3% reported “other.”
When asked which leader/representative they thought had the largest decision-making authority or impact on their child’s education, a majority responded with Governor Roy Cooper (56%). The least number of participants felt that state representatives (2%) and town/city leaders (2%) impacted this experience.
Almost half of participants reported their biggest concern was the school being unable to provide extra-curricular and after-school activities/events (48%), followed by a concern that their school has had difficulty implementing instructional programs that continue to support their child’s ability to learn (31%) and having to work so they can’t provide additional help (30%).
Distance Learning Preparedness and Management:
Most parents felt that their school’s administration was somewhat prepared for the transition (44%) and that they were somewhat prepared as a parent for the transition (43%). When combined, 68% of parents reported that their school administration was very or somewhat prepared. When compared across school makes and models, private school parents at 81% had the most confidence in their school administration followed by public charter (65%) and traditional public (60%). As for confidence in their personal preparedness as a parent for distance learning, 62% of private school parents felt prepared compared to public charter (59%) and traditional public (48%).
Almost half of parents reported managing their child’s learning at home as difficult (45%). Another large segment reported it as easy (32%). Parents of elementary school students reported distance learning as the most difficult for them (63%), and obviously the group that reported little difficulty were home school parents.
Parents reported feeling the workload required a moderate amount to a lot of themselves (75%) and a moderate amount of their child (47%). At 43%, private school parents were the top group to report that distance learning required “a lot” of parents.
Most parents believe that this education experience addresses core academics well (39%), developing independence well (39%), and socialization not well (31%). Most are also indifferent about the experience teaching good citizenship (36%), skills for future employment (36%), and values, morals, and/or religious virtues (30%).
Communication with Families:
The frequency of school communication to student’s families was found to mostly occur a few times to once a week (58%). However, 18% of parents reported having daily communication, 20% reported less than once a week communication, and 6% reported no communication relating to the school’s transition efforts. As for teacher-student meetings (whether one-on-one or through class lessons), a majority of participants reported having these a few times (28%), the remaining reporting daily communication (26%), once a week (21%), less than once a week (12%), and never (13%).
Of the respondents who answered having some frequency of communication about the transition, they most often were communicated with via email (42%). Other forms of communication are distributed equally between the remaining respondents: live video (20%), pre-recorded video (16%), and phone call (22%).
Addressing Needs after the Transition:
Special education student parents make up 16%, English language learner student parents make up 2%, gifted and talented student parents make up 12%, and free or reduced-price lunch student parents make up 21% of the participants. (The remaining 49% of participants have children who do not belong to a student sub-group). Of the 51% of participants with children in subgroups, most reported that their schools normally offer programs that meet the needs of their child (82%). However, of those who normally receive school support, most did not have continued support after the transition (56%).
In providing materials for schoolwork, most participants were given both print and digital materials (52%): print-based (6%), digital/internet based (35%), neither (3%), and other (3%). Of the resources parents have access to for their child’s learning, 74% have home-bought devices, 77% have internet access, 68.6% have school provided/funded online learning tools, and 65% have home-provided meals. The least accessible resources include school-provided meals (13%) and school-issued digital devices (30%). Only 10 participants responded as having no access to the resources listed (1%).
Looking to the Future and School Choice:
Less than two-thirds of parents report that remote learning is required for grade promotion (27%) and is not required for grade promotion (29%). Almost half are unsure if it is a requirement (44%). A majority of parents report that they feel their child is very prepared (43%) or somewhat prepared (47%) to enter the next grade level, leaving 8.6% feeling their child is unprepared and 1% feeling that their child will not progress to the next grade.
The majority of participants agree or strongly agree (77%) that they have become more aware of education policy as a result of COVID-19 and agree (25%) or strongly agree (68%) that they feel more inclined to support laws and policies that give parents school choice (93% total). Both private and traditional school parents weighed-in at 78% when asked about education policy.
Over half (67%) believe North Carolina gives them the opportunity of school choice: private school (77%) and home school (92%) felt the strongest about their school choice opportunities. The encouragement of this experience to consider different schooling options is fairly evenly spread—32% agree, 37% disagree, and 30% are neutral/unsure if it has encouraged them. However, when asked if they had a choice for the coming school year if they could choose a new type of school, the only option that saw a positive increase in support, across the board, was home school.
Returning to School Second Survey:
We conducted a follow-up survey in late June and early July (147 participants). More than half (67%) of the participants were satisfied or highly satisfied with the level of communication from their child’s school. In contrast, 47% don’t disagree and only 25% agree/strongly agree that their school has a clear plan relating to the start of school and meeting family needs. A third of parents are not looking forward to sending their children back to school in-person but 67% agree that they are looking forward to it. However, 60% they strongly agree or agree that they want a distance learning option until they can be sure of their child’s safety.
Most participants (51%) have been given the opportunity to share their preferences and concerns. In contrast, 33% disagree that those voiced concerns have been addressed (67% either strongly agree, agree, or somewhat agree). A similar trend is shown with the school’s effort to address issues of concern that may arise when re-opening in the fall (23% strongly agree, 19% agree, 24% somewhat agree, and 35% disagree).
Participants were most concerned about health and safety (40%) when returning to school in the fall. The most helpful thing a school can do was indicated as weekly updates from the school on procedures for navigating in-person return (29%).
Right now, participants prefer their child to be allowed to have class only online (36%). However, 34% prefer hybrid and 30% prefer returning to in-person instruction.
However, 60% say they strongly agree or agree that they want a distance learning option until they can be sure of their child’s safety. Most participants (51%) have been given the opportunity to share their preferences and concerns with their school.
Of those who participated in the follow-up survey, only one-third (31%) are contemplating sending their child to a different school than the one they attended last year, with 69% not contemplating sending their child to a different school.