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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Parental worries about academic progress outweigh Covid concerns  

As school districts across the country work to minimize students' exposure to Covid-19, parents now prioritize academic progress and emotional health over preventing the spread of the respiratory disease.

(CN) — Parents' views on in-person and online instruction have shifted since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new Pew Research Center poll, with concerns over their child’s academic performance and emotional well-being outweighing fears of spreading the coronavirus.

In July 2020, 64% of parents of K-12 students felt that a lot of consideration should be given to students spreading the virus while at school. As of January of this year, that concern has waned, with 43% of parents still believing it is of great concern. 

Concerns over the health and safety of teachers have also fallen, according to the survey. Sixty-one percent of parents in mid-2020 felt that the possibility of teachers spreading the virus should be taken into consideration in July 2020. That number fell to 47% by February 2021 and was down to 39% last month.

Going into the third year of the pandemic, parents' fears of their children falling behind academically have steadily risen, overtaking concerns of viral spread. The latest survey shows 67% of parents said a lot of consideration should be given to students' academic performance when it comes to deciding whether schools should be open for in-person instruction, up from 54% in 2020.

Respondents who identified as a Republican or leaning Republican felt more consideration should go into how students' academic performance (76%) and emotional well-being (71%) are affected without in-person instruction. While not as concerned as their Republican counterparts, 63% of Democratic or Democratic-leaning parents shared strong concerns about their children falling behind and 55% said the same about emotional health.

The widest partisan gaps were over the level of concern that should be given to students and teachers spreading the virus. Fifty-eight percent of Democratic parents felt that a lot of consideration should be given to the risk of students spreading the Covid-19 virus, and 53% felt the same about teachers. By comparison, only 24% of Republicans shared their concern about students and 22% worried about teachers.

A low percentage of both Republican (24%) and Democratic (28%) parents said a lot of consideration should be given to the financial cost to school systems to follow public health guidelines.

Of the parents who participated in the poll, 71% said their children are receiving in-person only instruction. Broken down by income level, the survey shows students from higher income families are more likely to be getting fully in-person classes, as opposed to a hybrid model or fully online.

Fifty-eight percent of lower-income students are fully back in the classroom, with 9% fully online and 23% participating in a hybrid of both forms. Seventy-seven percent of middle-income students are receiving in-person only instruction, with 3% only online and 12% in a hybrid program. Upper-income students are overwhelmingly (84%) more likely to be receiving their education in person, with 2% learning fully online and 11% in a hybrid of the two. 

A majority of parents (53%) believe that schools should be offering a mix of both in-person and online instruction this winter, when viral transmission spikes. Breaking down parents' views demographically reveals wider differences. 

Comparing race, 47% of white and 25% of non-white parents believe that K-12 schools should only be offering in-person instruction. Forty-eight percent of white parents say it should mixed instruction, with 61% of non-white parents in agreement. Online-only instruction polled the lowest, with 5%of white parents and 14% of non-white parents supporting that approach.

Across all income levels, a mix of in-person and online instruction was viewed more favorably than in-person or online only. Fifty-six percent of lower-income parents favored a hybrid approach, with 28% saying schools should offer in-person only instruction and 16% preferring online-only instruction. Middle-income parents were evenly split between those who prefer schools to offer mixed instruction (50%) and the rest who want in-person (43%) and online-only (7%) instruction. Upper-income parents felt similarly to middle-income parents, with 51% favoring mixed instruction, 46% for in-person only instruction and two percent for online-only instruction.

Parents' political ideologies revealed the widest differences, with 39% of Republican and 64% of Democratic parents preferring mixed instruction. Republicans (55%) favored in-person-only instruction much more than Democrats (26%). Only 6% of Republicans and 11% of Democrats said schools should only be offering fully online instruction. 

Over 2,000 parents of K-12 students took part in the survey, which was conducted from Jan. 24-30, 2022.

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Categories / Education, Health, National

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