As the majority of the nation’s largest school districts are starting the school year off virtually, a new NewSchools Venture Fund-Gallup poll examines how students, parents and teachers are thinking about distance learning, education technology and equity. Building off of a pre-pandemic poll partnership with Gallup, NewSchools commissioned the new survey to provide key insights as school leaders navigate budget constraints, technology access issues, and health and safety concerns.

The survey finds gaps and mismatches in expectations that threaten educational equity and present challenges schools will need to overcome in order to support student success. While most teachers (56%) and just under half of students (48%) say they’re confident or very confident around their ability to teach and learn, the majority of parents think otherwise – with just 29% feeling confident or very confident that their child’s school will provide a high-quality education this year. Teachers in higher-poverty schools are the most likely to say they want parents to be more involved. Yet parents from low-income backgrounds are most likely to say they were already very involved in the spring. These data suggest a worrisome dynamic in higher-poverty schools: parents see themselves as working hard to support students’ learning, yet teachers would like them to be more involved in the fall. Additional findings include:

  • The majority of teachers (56%) expect students to learn less than they typically do in fall 2020, but parents and students are more likely to say they will learn as much or more as a typical fall semester.
  • Almost half of parents (49%) think their children will learn as much as a typical fall semester and nearly 1 in 10 parents (9%) think their children will learn more this year than a typical fall semester.
  • Half of students (50%) say they will learn as much as a typical fall semester, and 1 in 5 students (22%) expect to learn more this year than a typical fall semester.
  • The vast majority of teachers say they will be making up for missed learning opportunities with students in the prior spring, with nearly half (48%) thinking they will need to spend a lot of time and an additional 43% thinking they will spend at least some time on helping students catch up.
  • While parents are slightly more positive about learning gaps from the spring, 38% of parents think teachers will have to spend a lot of time on learning loss, and another 38% expect teachers to spend some time on helping students catch up.
  • Students are more confident about not needing much support to catch up, with the majority (54%) saying they will not need help to catch up this fall. Students from low-income backgrounds and Black students are most likely to say they will need support to catch up.

“It’s a big deal that parents, teachers and students see the year ahead so differently,” said NewSchools CEO Stacey Childress. “This poll is a clarion call for schools to get on the same page with the people they serve, especially on the vital question of how much learning we expect students will do.”

As this school year gets underway, schools have an opportunity to better engage parents in the rollout and continuous improvement of how education technology is used in distance learning. Parents and teachers currently have generally positive assessments of the tools themselves, which lays some good grounding to build off of in the coming months:

  • 72% of teachers and 68% of parents rated their digital tools excellent or good. 90% of teachers see great value in using digital learning in the future.
  • Disparities by income continue to appear in data around distance learning device access and quality, with parents from lower-income backgrounds less likely to rate the digital learning tools their children used as good or excellent.
  • Black parents were most likely to rate the digital learning tools their child used as good or excellent.
  •  Latino parents were the least likely to rate the digital learning tools training and support they received as good or excellent.

“As a parent of three children, I really struggled with the sudden shift to distance learning even though I had deep prior knowledge of how ed tech tools work,” said Tonika Cheek Clayton, Managing Partner at NewSchools. “As schools strive to better support families this fall, there’s a real need to address the inequities we witnessed earlier this year through creatively partnering with families. This will take innovation, flexibility, patience and a willingness from teachers, parents and students to try to work together in new and different ways.”