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Poll shows low-income families less satisfied with distance learning

NY parents expressed a decrease in success for

NY parents expressed a decrease in success for distance learning as the pandemic has worn on, especially for low-income families. Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Andrew_Rybalko

A March statewide poll of New York parents found that 57% described the distance-learning their children were being provided as “successful.”

By June, a follow-up poll by Global Strategy Group showed that percentage had dropped 14 points, to 43%.

And the vast majority of the overall decline came from low-income families, whose approval had practically matched that of higher-income families in March but by June was 12% lower than higher-income families, 36% to 48%. 

And between March and June, satisfaction among Black parents dropped 16 points, while satisfaction among Hispanic parents declined 12 points..

The findings are part of a report released Monday by The Education Trust-New York, a nonprofit organization devoted to eliminating gaps in equity, opportunity and achievement in education. 

The news isn’t all bad. Parents actually support their schools’ overall handling of the coronavirus, with 83% signaling approval. Here, too, however, lower-income families are far less enthused, with 76% approving while that number is 86% for higher-income families. In March, the two groups’ ratings had been nearly identical.

“I think people generally wanted to give the benefit of the doubt to the institutions serving their children,” Education Trust-NY Executive Director Ian Rosenblum told The Point. “Two weeks into the distance-learning experiment, parents across the board were still giving schools the benefit of the doubt. But three months in, huge gaps had appeared between what parents said children needed and what schools in many lower-income districts were providing.”

The report issued Monday actually has three parts: the poll results, an assessment of the distance-learning plans created by school districts statewide, and recommendations from The New York Equity Coalition for state and school district leaders focused on reopening schools.

“What we found was predictable but deeply troubling,” Rosenblum said. “Students in low-income districts were far less likely to have one-on-one time with teachers, live instruction from teachers via the internet, meaningful access to school counselors and enough support for students with disabilities, English language learners and students experiencing homelessness.”

But the report also includes examples of what specific districts did very well, best practices from which educators throughout the state can learn.

As for what happens in September and whether students will be learning in classrooms or in their homes, Rosenblum said: “That’s primarily going to be a health and safety question. Our concern is making sure that if schools do end up doing distance learning or a blended system, continuity and high-quality instruction is provided to all students, and particularly those with the greatest needs. That means the state needs to have real standards on what distance learning looks like, to make sure every district is providing what students need and gaps in equity, access and achievement aren’t growing even larger.”

The poll, report and recommendations can be found here