EdChoice Public Opinion Tracker: Top Takeaways August 2020

In this post we share findings based on our most recent Public Opinion Tracker survey wave (in the field August 12–17). Our monthly tracking poll results are based on a nationally representative sample of adults 18 years and older (N = 2,200), as well as a subsample of parents of school-age children (N = 548).

As always, please let me know at paul@edchoice.org if you have any questions about our data or findings, or if you have ideas for new questions or topics.

1. Almost half of surveyed parents report they have at least looked into forming learning pods with other families. Those who have children in grades K–4, living in urban areas, and having higher household incomes are more likely to have “identified a ‘pod’ “ with other families. Whether or not these pods are part of online learning arrangements with public/private schools, or completely independent of schools still requires more exploration. It is clear though that a large proportion of parents are taking a very active role in educating their children during the current pandemic.

2. Based on parent reports, nearly one-quarter of students have switched their child’s/children’s school type since February of this year. School parents with younger children (K–8) are more likely to have switched school sectors than those with older children. It appears that pre-pandemic homeschoolers are the most likely to switch sectors compared to students who were enrolled in other types of schools.

3. Perhaps the most counterintuitive finding: Most school parents feel their child’s/children’s progress is either better or about the same compared to just before the coronavirus pandemic. A child’s age and grade level could matter. Exercise some caution here because of lower sample sizes at the subgroup level. That said, it appears parents are reporting that children in grades K–4 are faring better than high schoolers in terms of academic learning and social-emotional development.

4. Parents’ preferences vary widely on how to go back to school this fall. Roughly 30-40 percent of parents say they strongly support each one of four different scenarios for schooling this fall. The greatest level of strong support (46%) is for students to learn completely online, but still less than half of parents expressed that view. The lowest level of strong support (29%) is for schools/districts to take a hybrid or mixed approach combining online and in-person to some degrees.

5. Parents say they want more than one option for their child’s education. Seven out of ten (70%) believe they should have multiple options for schooling this year. That result has stayed the same since July. And if provided the option by their district, the proportion of school parents saying they are likely to choose remote learning, rather than in-person, has steadily increased since we started asking in May. Next month, we plan to ask a question to see if these preferences actually translate into actions.

6. Most school parents feel at least somewhat satisfied with the communication from their child’s/children’s school related to education plans for the fall. Some subgroup-level differences emerged on this question. Parent’s with a higher household income: $75k+ per year were nearly twice as likely to be very satisfied (61%) with the communication from their child’s/children’s school regarding the coronavirus outbreak than those with a low income: <$35k per year (33%).

7. Parent favorability for homeschooling is high and holding steady. About two-thirds of parents (68%) say they are at least somewhat more favorable toward homeschooling because of the pandemic, and 40 percent say they are strongly more favorable. As the school year marches on and as student and parent experiences shift because of school and district policy actions, it will be interesting to see how the trendlines change over time.

NOTE: A lot of organizations are responding and doing great survey work in the turbulent times we are living in right now. I’ve started to catalog those polls and surveys asking COVID-19 and pandemic questions related to K–12 education. That archive page will be updated on a rolling basis roughly a few  times per month or as polls get released. Please don’t hesitate to let me know if I’m missing any to date.