As state and district leaders in Texas are deciding how to best open schools, including retaining some form of distance learning, a new poll released today by The Education Trust sheds light on Texas parents’ thoughts on at-home learning. Nearly 9 in 10 (87%) parents are concerned about their children falling behind academically due to coronavirus-related school closures, and 3 out of 4 (74%) public school parents report higher levels of stress than usual. Feelings of stress are particularly common among parents of children with disabilities (43% feeling much higher levels of stress) and low-to middle-income families earning $25K-$50K annually (39%).
The statewide poll, conducted by Global Strategy Group, finds that while Texas parents give positive ratings to schools for their handling of the coronavirus and the transition to remote learning overall (87%), there are clear barriers that parents feel prevent their children from successfully participating in distance learning while schools remain closed. These feelings are especially prevalent amongst parents of color and families experiencing financial difficulties. For example, while 60% of White parents reported that their school provided regular contact with their child’s teacher, only 45% of Black parents are being provided with the same support. Additionally, only 19% of Texas parents making less than $24K annually report that their school has connected them to resources to help with food, housing, and other basic needs.
“Our survey reveals that in Texas, this health crisis continues to exacerbate longstanding education equity challenges, including access to technology, academic support, and resources for students of color and students from lower-income communities,” said Ary Amerikaner, vice president for P-12 policy, practice, and research for The Education Trust. “Our polling data shows that in Texas, some children are receiving resources while others are not. State and district leaders must ensure that educators and school leaders have the resources they need now to educate students during this pandemic and that they step up planning to accelerate student learning when children once again enter the school building.”
Key Poll Findings:
· About 7 in 10 Latino and Black parents are concerned they do not have the resources or supplies to help their child stay academically on track.
· Roughly 1 in 6 (17%) Black parents and nearly 1 in 10 (8%) Latino parents reported receiving little to no information about academic or other resources from their school or district.
· About 3 in 4 (74%) Black parents expect to receive instructional materials that cover the duration of school closures; while nearly 4 in 5 (78%) of Latino parents expect the same.
Digital Divide and Distance Learning
· About half (51%) of parents reported challenges with distance learning. The most common concerns reported across all racial groups was that assignments were confusing or that distance learning software was difficult to use.
· Similarly, while 48% of White parents reported that their school had lent technology devices like Chromebooks or iPads, only 37% of Black parents report having been provided the same support.
· Nearly 4 in 10 (39%) of White parents report receiving technical assistance to get set up for distance learning, compared to only 29% of Black parents.
· About one-quarter of parents who reported having challenges reported that they didn’t have reliable high-speed internet access or enough devices at home.
· Seven in 10 (70%) parents say providing free internet access to families while schools are closed would be very helpful for families like theirs, but only 24% report that their districts are doing that.
· Low-income families are more focused on financial concerns and being able to provide for their families at this time, while upper income families place a larger emphasis on socializing, friends, and wanting things to go back to normal.
· Three in 4 (74%) parents report experiencing higher levels of stress, including 32% who say their levels of stress are much higher than usual. These findings are generally consistent across racial groups and families of different income levels.
“State leaders and educators are indeed doing a tremendous job to continue student learning and support them in other ways during this time of uncertainty,” said Patricia Arvanitis, co-founder and CEO of Leadership ISD Texas. “As leaders think about how to best reopen schools, the views of parents expressed in this poll should provide even more urgency to focus on the needs of students who are students of color, English learners, and students with disabilities, and students from low-income backgrounds.”
In total, 1,200 parents of children in Texas public schools were polled online (desktop and mobile) from April 13 to April 19. These poll results follow parent polls released in WA, CA and NY amidst the COVID-19 pandemic impacting school closures all across the state and the country.
To advance work around educational equity and to support partners working on behalf of students of color and students from low-income backgrounds in Texas, The Education Trust will announce a new presence in the state in the coming days. The Education Trust hopes to bring its expertise in research and data analysis, partnership and advocacy to ensure that Texas’ most underserved students get the resources they need to reach their full academic potential.