Lots of academic catch-up needed, say K-12 parents
Poll points to big schooling challenges ahead for next year
WHILE MASSACHUSETTS SCHOOLS look to close out the school year with something approximating a normal routine and setting, a majority of parents across the state say their children will have have to catch up academically in the fall after what’s been described by many as a “lost year” undone by the COVID-19 pandemic.
That is among the findings from a new poll of Massachusetts parents, the fourth in a series of surveys of K-12 schooling carried out by the MassINC Polling Group and sponsored by the Barr Foundation with input from The Education Trust.
More than half of parents surveyed in the latest poll — 55 percent — think their child will need to catch up academically next year. There were clear racial differences, with 62 percent of Asian parents and 59 percent of black parents saying their child will need to catch up compared with 53 percent of white and Latino parents.
The share of parents who think their child is now behind grade level has roughly doubled since the onset of the pandemic, going from 16 percent before COVID to 29 percent now.
Among parents who think their child has fallen behind and whose child is still partially or fully learning at home, strategies they think would most help them catch up are a return to in-person learning, receiving frequent updates on their academic progress, and additional one-on-one or small-group instruction. Sixty-four percent of parents said in-person learning would be “very helpful,” while 63 percent said that about frequent updates on their academic standing, and 60 percent said one-on-one or small-group instruction would be “very helpful.”
When read a list of various approaches to help students catch up academically, black and Latino parents were more likely to say a wide range of strategies could be “very helpful.”
There was broad support for a wide range of funding priorities for schools, ranging from tutoring to expanded vocational and technical education and mental health services. Black and Latino parents were more likely to identify approaches as funding priorities, as were lower-income parents.
Black parents were the most likely to say their child has been treated unfairly at school, as were younger parents.
Only a quarter of respondents said they planned to have their child attend summer school classes. Whether a parent planned to send their child to summer school tracked closely with their perception of where they stood academically, with almost half (48 percent) of those who said their child had a catch up “a lot” indicating they planned to send them to summer school.
Parents of color and those whose children are English language learners or have an individualized education plan were the most likely to say they planned on sending them to summer school.
More than half of parents — 56 percent — said their children were still learning either remotely from home or in a hybrid mix of in-person and remote learning, although 80 percent have children learning in school at least part time.