Ep. 278: Monthly Tracker – September 2021

November 2, 2021

In this episode we dive deeper into the four polls we put in the field during the month of September. We break down some of the results from our teacher poll, black parents poll, teens poll, and general public poll.

Michael McShane: Hello, and welcome back to another addition of EdChoice Chats. This is Mike McShane Director of National Research at EdChoice. We are having a conversation today that can only be described as pollingpalooza. In the month of September, we put four different polls, versions of our tracker poll, in the field.

So for those of you that have been listening to this podcast in the past, know that periodically we survey the general population of American adults. We do that every month in cooperation with Morning Consult. Every quarter, we survey a nationally representative sample of teacher. We’ve been also surveying black parents, and we’ve been surveying teenagers sort of episodically throughout the pandemic.

Well, it’s one of those months, like if you remember that Office episode, where it’s one Friday where Michael Scott has to sign like seven different types of forms, and they’re worried that they’re not going to be able to go home. We are having that day today, because the month of September saw our teen survey, our adult survey, our black parent survey, and our teacher survey all administered in the field. And so we had to bring in some help this month. So, obviously, I’m joined by my colleague, John Kristof, but joining us from the Cato Institute Center for Educational Freedom, where she is a policy analyst, we have Colleen Hroncich.

So Colleen, thank you so much for joining us today. Really appreciate having you on

Colleen Hroncich: Very happy to be here. I love the EdChoice polling, so this will be fun.

Michael McShane: Wonderful. Well, great. So the three of us are going to try and wade through all four of these reports. Now, obviously we think all of you should go to our website and check this out, because we’re not going to be able to do justice to all of these different polls. Think of this as like, it’s like a movie commercial, you’re getting the one minute summary of this. We tried to pull out some of the stuff that we thought was interesting or different these months, but if you want the detailed stuff, you got to go edchoice.morningconsultintelligence.com, all of these reports are there in all of their detail.

But Colleen, I think we’ll start with the general population survey. So we survey a nationally representative sample of Americans. We do some oversampling to get a national representative sample of school parents as well. And one of the stories, the last time podcast listeners heard from us, was that there was a dip for the first time in August with how comfortable parents were with going back to school. We’d been seeing a pretty steady increase in the percentage of our respondents who said that they were comfortable with their kids going back to school, and steady decreases in those saying that they were uncomfortable. And this month we sort of had a return to form.

So we saw 63% of parents say that they were comfortable with their kids going back to school, so that’s those who said that they were very comfortable as well as somewhat comfortable. That’s up six points from August. And we saw a decrease down to 32% of those uncomfortable. That’s down five points from August. So as you look at those numbers, both, maybe the dip before and the increase, what do you think’s going on there?

Colleen Hroncich: It seems like that was Delta. Back in August, there were a lot of stories about Delta being a lot more contagious and transmissible, people weren’t sure if it affected kids any differently. They weren’t sure what to expect, I think, when they went back to school. So I think it was driving the lower numbers in August, but now people are back in school, and they’re not finding problems the way that they feared as much, and things seem that they’re going well in most of district, from what I’ve seen at least. So I think that explains probably why it’s popped back up a bit.

Michael McShane: And John, it’s interesting, because sort of as schools are going back, there have been lots of debates across the country about masks in schools. There have been debates about vaccines in schools. It seems like the FDA is pretty close to approving the vaccines for five to 11-year-olds. And so we’ve been asking this question, we just started asking it recently, so we have another month of data, now that an FDA approved vaccine to prevent COVID-19 is available, do you think it should be mandatory or encouraged for the following groups? Do you think masking should be mandatory or encouraged for the following groups?

So we’ve asked people about teachers and staff, professors, and staff at come colleges, students 18 and older, employees in an office, students 12 and older, and students five through 11. When you look at those responses, and Morning Consult, to their credit, just like last month, did these really great bar graphs for us that kind of break all of these things down. But as you look at those numbers, does anything stand out to you as particularly interesting?

John Kristof: I thought it was interesting that about, we’ll say. Five points per group we ask about, because we ask about, do you think it should be required for teachers, for students 12 and older, students age five to 11, for each group that we ask about the share of respondents who think that masks should be required, went up about five percentage points. Whereas those who believe that vaccination should be required, didn’t really go up or change at all. And I think that’s interesting, especially comparing the last result that we just talked about with comfort with returning to the classroom. I think there’s a natural inclination for a lot of us. If we feel more comfortable, we feel more comfortable taking off guardrails and things like that. And yet at the same time, comfort with school has increased, roughly, the same rate that favor toward mask mandates have also increased.

And I think that’s just an interesting pattern to see together, as someone who’s dived into the open text responses a little bit for people who are comfortable returning to classroom. Among those who aren’t comfortable returning to the classroom, you basically have two groups. Those who just aren’t comfortable with schools in general, and I don’t know what we’re going to be able to do for those people. And those who still point to things like vaccination isn’t available for my six year old yet, and my school isn’t following requirements and things like that. So it would be interesting to see how these numbers kind of correspond in the future, these two results.

Michael McShane: No, for sure. And so, Colleen, John brought up masking, and so, sort of as I preface in my question to him, there’s been a lot of controversy, discussion around the country about mask mandates and others. So we’ve been asking this question, which is, in your opinion, who should have the authority to determine whether or not masking is required in public school building? So, again, this isn’t a question about whether we think masking is good or bad or whether the school should do it or not, but just a question of who should make this decision. And I have to be honest, the result that we got I thought was actually kind of interesting.

So we gave respondents some options, their state department, local school districts, national health agencies, local health departments, state education departments, state elected officials, and nationally elected officials. Now, it did not surprise me at all that the people that they had the least confidence in are nationally elected officials. I don’t think that should have shocked any of us, but I was a bit surprised, the number group was the state health department. They scored higher than any of those other groups that were there. Did that surprise you as well? Or what do you see there in those numbers?

Colleen Hroncich: That does surprise me, and maybe it’s just because they figure that the national level is seen as more political, the local level maybe is seen as less expertise, I don’t know. I would’ve liked to have seen parents as an option in this. Just out of curiosity, to see if they would prefer it just be the parents’ decision versus any officials at all.

Michael McShane: No, absolutely. I think that’s one, that we may have to make a note of that to see included in a future survey. I wonder what folks would say about that.

Colleen Hroncich: And I was also wondering, if you don’t mind me jumping back for a second on the-

Michael McShane: Yeah, go ahead.

Colleen Hroncich: … previous question, if that is something that you break out at all. I didn’t see it in the bigger slide deck, but this is all adults responding to the masking and vaccine questions, and I would be curious to know how parents of school-aged children feel about those questions.

John Kristof: Yeah, we do actually have that information on our website, edchoice.morningconsultintelligence.com is where you can find the more detailed cross tabs, breakdown that goes into a lot more detailed even than our slide deck does. And a quick cursory glance tells me that, generally speaking, school parents tend to favor mandatory masking at about like three to five percentage points less per group than the general population. And it seems like, again, generally speaking, that group, those parents, seem to have shifted into the encouraged, but not mandatory session. But if you’re interested in any particular groups or anybody out there is interested in particular groups, you can definitely check out the resources we have on our website.

Michael McShane: Always good advice. Now, John, that we talked about vaccines, we you’ve talked about masks, another kind of COVID mitigation strategy has been quarantining. And I think different schools in different districts have different policies related to this, but we just asked a very general question, which is, have any of your children quarantined because of the COVID-19 outbreak? And according to school parents, 43% have said, “At least one of their children has had to quarantine because of COVID-19,” and the average number of times is actually just over two and a half. They do some more breakdown of those numbers, which I think is sort of interesting in their own right.

I don’t know whether that surprises me or not. I think that’s one of those numbers that anything would’ve surprised me, right?

John Kristof: Right.

Michael McShane: If it had been like 90% or if it had been 10%, I would’ve been like, “Oh, that seems about right.” But it turns out that it’s right around half, and that they’ve quarantined on average two and a half times. But was that your response? Was this surprising? Does this seem about right?

John Kristof: Yeah. I went through those waves as well of, “Wow. That seems high, but is it high?” So I think it’s interesting. I think my biggest takeaway was you still have 57% of parents who say that their children haven’t had to quarantine at all, because of COVID. But among those remaining 43 of parents who have had children quarantined because of COVID, they’ve done it an average two and a half times. I think just that distinction between those two groups feels very stark, when you break it down in that way.

I do think it is worth noting the breakdown by demographic that we have, where if the parent is low income, which we define as having household income of less than $35,000 a year, if their child is quarantined, it’s been on average three point five eight times, which seems very high, and is higher than middle income or higher income groups. And also minority students also appear to quarantine more times if they’ve quarantined at all. So I think those trends would be interesting to follow-up in some other ways and would love people’s feedback on why that might be the case.

Michael McShane: For sure. And when you think, like an average quarantine, I mean, if they’re following the kind of 14 day rules, you see three and a half quarantines at 14 days, that’s a lot of school time. And I’m interested too, there was like an urban/rural breakdown. And I would’ve thought that it would’ve been urban schools that were most likely to have quarantine, but it’s actually small town and rural schools. Then the more I thought of that, the more I thought, well, probably a lot of urban schools were less likely to just be open to in-person instruction. So it’s maybe that that happened in times when those rural schools were open, and the other schools were doing remote instruction.

But those are really interesting numbers and they’ll be interesting to track as we go forward, as we see if that number changes, if it go goes down, what’s going on as more and more schools open up?

But, Colleen, there was an interesting, what a study came up recently that said, there’s something like three million missing students from schools over the course of the last year. And it seems like a lot of folks are saying, one big explanation for that might be people holding their kids out of kindergarten. So we added a question in here, and I think this is new this month, but trying to answer this question where we ask school parents, did you delay enrollment of kindergarten for any of your children, which of the following? And then we ask them for their reasons.

And of at least current school parents, 12% said that for at least one of their children, they delayed kindergarten. And the most common reasons were~ just saying that their children would’ve been too young for their grade, or they were not emotionally ready, which seemed to me the standard reasons when I just talk to people who hold their kids back. But coming in at 21%, so 21% of the 12% of parents who’ve held their kids back, was the coronavirus pandemic. That was the reason that they held them back. I’m interested just in your thoughts as you look at those numbers.

Colleen Hroncich: I was surprised that the 21% was as low as it was, because a lot of school districts did report fewer kids in school. And a lot of that-

Michael McShane: Yeah, for sure.

Colleen Hroncich: … seemed to be concentrated in kindergarteners coming in the first times. So I did expect that that would be a higher chunk, whereas it’s mostly just the regular things, like I had a child with a September birthday, and that’s a big decision, when you’re trying to figure out whether to send them when they’ll be old or young. So I’m not surprised that 12% of kids that are eligible get delayed, but I was surprised that it was only 21% that it was because has a COVID.

Michael McShane: Yeah, it’s going to be really interesting, because I think a lot of us, I’ve been hearing the exact same explanation that you have of school districts with all these kids gone, “Oh no, it’s just people who didn’t enroll their kids in kindergarten.” Maybe, but also maybe not. It might actually be a lot of older kids and it’s easy to say, “Oh, it was kindergarten, but it was other kids that pulled out.” So I guess that remains to be seen.

Well, I want to transition for a second to our black parent survey. And I want to just kind of highlight two things that I think was really interesting, that highlights, I think, kind of issues of educational innovation. We’ve asked questions, and those of you that have listened to this podcast for a while have heard us asking questions about pandemic pods and about hybrid homeschooling. And one of the things that I found super interesting this month was the answers from our black parent survey about those two things, about hybrid homeschooling and about pandemic pods.

Because if you look at comparisons between, we’ll start with hybrid homes schooling, if we compare black parents to white parents, and to be fair, Hispanic parents and white parents, at least on this question, are very similar to one another, black parents were much more likely to say that they wanted to completely homeschool their kids. So only 15% of white parents said that they wanted to do that, while 23% of black parents did. And in almost all of the levels of hybrid homeschooling, it was more popular amongst black parents than either white or Hispanic parents. John, do you have a reaction to that?

John Kristof: Yeah, I think these are very fascinating results. I will say, when I see charts like this, on a monthly basis now, I think of all the stories that I’ve read over the last, nearly two years now of COVID time, and reading stories about the rise of homeschooling in the black community and black families. And it feels like a new one of those is being written every few weeks. And the common thread seems to be parents who are seeing their children thrive more outside of the school environment that they left, because of quarantined or school shutdowns, and things like that. Or because of increasing concerns about how their students are being treated in the classroom, or just valued that time that students had at home and are looking for ways to extend that.

So, obviously, homeschooling is one way to do that. And that’s our completely at home response where 23% of black parents say that their ideal learning week is their kids learning completely at home, which is eight percentage points more than white parents as a comparison. But there is also a mixture and a very high percentage of black parents, I think it’s 57% of black parents say that they would value between one and four days spent at home during the week.

So I think there’s just a lot of families who have seen their kid in a new light, through the pandemic, who if given the opportunity to brainstorm what an ideal week would be, they would take their kids at home more often. And I think that’s something we have to look at as researchers and policy people.

Michael McShane: For sure. And Colleen, it seems like with pandemic pods, there’s a similar story. So we asked this question, as a result of the coronavirus, are you currently participating in a pod with other families? And we give them the option of, yes, we’re currently participating, no, but we’re looking to, and, no, but we’re not looking to. And it’s really interesting, 46% of black parents said, either, “Yes, they are currently in a pod,” or, “They’re not, but they would like to join a pod,” which was up nine points from July.

And I looked at that’s more, as I understand, in the general population survey, I went back and checked those numbers it was only 34%. And I think we did some comparisons or Morning Consult put some comparisons for us, that compares to only 28% of white parents who answered that way. So it was sort of a similar vein to hybrid homeschooling. It seems like pods are more popular amongst black parents.

Colleen Hroncich: Right. And if you think even outside of COVID, school choice in general has typically been more popular among black parents. And I think that’s probably related to fact that they tend to be assigned to lower performing schools. That would be a whole different podcast episode, of course, what goes into that. But I think there’s trust factor and there’s already concerns about maybe their child’s health and safety in schools, add COVID on top of that, I don’t find it at all surprising that they would be much more likely to want the more community and coziness, I suppose you could say, of a pod versus full-time, in-person at a district school. I think that there’s a lot going into that, that predates that-

Michael McShane: For sure. Yeah, absolutely. So as we continue through pollingpalooza, we definitely want to talk about our teachers survey. And it’s interesting, so, John, sort of comparing and contrasting, so the same questions that we asked of parents or the general population around things like vaccines and masks and whether we think they should be mandatory or encouraged or not, we ask this to teachers as well. So teachers could say about themselves, should it be mandatory that everybody wear masks or being mandatory that they get vaccinated? Should it be encouraged but not mandatory? Or should it be neither encouraged nor mandatory? We did the same thing for students, professors, et cetera. As you look at that, and as you kind of compare and contrast it to the general population, did anything stand out to you?

John Kristof: I notice that overall teachers are noticeably more favorable to mask mandates than the general population, and as we discussed earlier, school parents as well. Vaccine mandate favor is a tad higher, but not that much higher than the general public though. I think that’s an interesting question, because that kind of goes back to what I was talking about earlier, where, compared to last month, interest in mask mandates has risen, but interest in vaccine mandates has not risen, and teachers favor masking mandates more than the vaccine mandates.

So there’s a clear difference between the two policies that is appealing to some groups more than others or at sometimes more than others. So, yeah, that’s the main thing that I think of is, again, just this distinction between mask and vaccine mandates.

Michael McShane: Yeah. And it’s interesting because, Colleen, so we asked the question to teachers as well. The one that we had talked about earlier, about, who should make this decision? To be fair, nationally elected officials came in dead last on this one as well, not entirely surprising. But for the top group, we actually saw a switch, where teachers were much more likely than school parents to say that local school districts should do it. State health departments came in second, and for teachers, I mean, looking at, they were much more likely, that was the sort of clear winner.

Where with parents, it was a pretty close race between local school districts and state health departments, with state health departments kind of edging them out. Whereas it seems pretty much a blowout, that teachers want local school districts to make these decisions. What do you think about that?

Colleen Hroncich: I suspect that’s because they have more influence there, and when it’s their workplace, I think it makes sense that they would want the closest to them body making decisions. And so it doesn’t really surprise me, and, again, on the national and the elected officials, I think that’s just a general lack of trust that people have with elected officials.

Michael McShane: I think that’s probably true. So, John, we asked the quarantine question as well, have you had to quarantine because of the coronavirus outbreak? And in this case, 52% of teachers have had to quarantine. Now, of those who’ve been quarantined, the average number is about the same, two point four five times that they’ve had to quarantine, but the percentage of folks is up. I mean, 52% of teachers versus, what was it, 43% of students or at least have families reporting it for their kids. What do you see? I mean, are there sort of implications for this? Are any of the breakdowns different? Are there sort of interesting tidbit than there that you took away from that?

John Kristof: I was definitely drawn to the breakdowns as I was with the question for school parents, and just as lower income parents were more likely to report that their students were quarantining more, low income teachers were more likely to report quarantining more than high income teachers. And even middle income teachers kind of noticeably more than high income teachers. And similarly, to what school parents responded, minority teachers were more likely to say that they had quarantined more. The one noticeable flip, I think, is in the urban versus small town, rural, where the parents from small towns and rural areas responded that their kids quarantined the most, on average for teachers in an urban community were more likely to quarantine way more often, it seems. And I sat there and looked at that chart for a bit and did some thinking, and I’m not quite sure why that flip might have happened, but it is interesting. And I would love feedback on that.

Michael McShane: If I had a better answer, I would give it to you, but I’m sort of, similarly, flummoxed on this one. I want to change gears a little bit and talk about our teen survey. So this is our fourth of four, great work team, we’ve gone through the general population. We’ve gone through our black parent survey. We’ve gone through our teacher survey. And I think actually what’s kind of interesting, is that, we ask very similar questions in those three surveys, because generally speaking, we’re interviewing all adults that are connected to schools in one way or the other.

But in our teen survey we actually ask really different questions, and I have found the results to them to be super interesting. Because, I mean, there’s always commentary, I think if you go back all the way to reading the ancients about old people trying to say what teams think now, and we have the advantage that we can actually ask them. And so, Colleen, one question that we asked is just, the beginning, asking them sort of in this moment, what are you doing in school right now? And so part of it was like, are you completely in-person? Are you completely online? Are you in a mix of in-person/online? Do you not know? And I have a certain respect-

Colleen Hroncich: That’s my favorite is how many say don’t know.

Michael McShane: I have a certain respect for teenagers who don’t know what they’re doing for school every day. There’s a certain either apathy, or just like, I’m not going to answer your question that I love. But it seems to me that the pattern, so we have these, and, again, Morning Consult, if you go to our website, they’ve put together all these beautiful charts for us, but we can actually compare kind of September to March to August. And so as you sort of look at these patterns, what stands out to you?

Colleen Hroncich: One thing that surprises me is that there were fewer that were completely in person last March than last August. It seemed, from observing, that as the school year was and on more became fully in-person, so that part surprises me. But what encourages me is that 66% were, it’s a big jump, who were completely in-person this year compared to last year. It’s still low, I’m surprised that it’s only 66%, but it is a big jump at least from last year, so that’s good news.

Michael McShane: Yeah. That’s important to note. So in August of 2020, 19% of students said that they were completely in-person. In March of 2021, as Colleen pointed out, it dropped down to 16%. And then by September of 2021, it was up to the 66%. So, yeah, definite changes in that pattern. And I was similarly surprised by the difference. I would’ve bet dollars to donuts that more people would’ve been in-person in March of ’21 than in August of ’20, but there you go.

Now, John, there has been a lot of discussion about the impact of the pandemic on teenagers, the sort of isolation that they’ve had, both because their school was online, but also just like the general sort of social distancing things that had to go across all parts of their lives. And so we’ve asked these questions, since the coronavirus pandemic started in March of 2020, how have each of the following changed for you? And we ask them questions about stress, anxiety, mental health, motivation, happiness, all of those, and they can answer everywhere from much better to much worse. As you look at these patterns, what do you see?

John Kristof: I think this is a very interesting one that I feel like we could talk for a whole podcast just about this-

Michael McShane: Absolutely.

John Kristof: … question. So the first thing that I think people will notice is that teens are much more likely to say that they are more stressed now than they were before the pandemic, like only 17% of teens said that they were doing better as far as stress levels go. And on most of these indicators that we have, they’re more likely to say that they’re doing worse now than they were before the pandemic. However, not as many are saying that they’re doing worse compared to when we last did this survey back in March. So, for example, back in March, the share of teens who said that they were more stressed now than when the pandemic began outpaced those who said that they were doing better by 50 percentage points, that’s a gigantic swing.

And this month, in September, it was “only” a 38% gap. Now you’d like to think that as an improvement, but there’s a challenge of, I know in school, I was more stressed in March than I was in September, because in September things hadn’t really gotten started yet as far as school and assignments and maybe social pressures and things like that. So how much of this reduction in students saying that they’re more stressed now than when the pandemic started is because of feelings about COVID? And how much of it is just trapped in like it’s the beginning of the school year, as opposed to toward the end? And the share of teens who said that they were concerned about COVID dropped five percentage points compared to the March. And I don’t exactly know how much that means, but that’s kind of like a relevant point as you’re trying to figure things out.

So everything looks pretty bad, but it’s not as bad as it was in March. Particularly, happiness seems to be less bad. Stress seems to be less bad. Personal mental health seems to be less bad. And notably relationships seem to be doing better, as one positive outworking of this. Students are much less likely to say that their relationships with friends are worse. And the one category where teens are lead to say that they’re doing better than when the pandemic started is their relationships with immediate family. Back in March, those who said that their relationship with their family was doing better outpaced those who said worse by six percentage points, and in September it was nine. So, yay, for interpersonal relationships during lockdown.

Michael McShane: Yeah. And you’re right, that that this is very dark cloud, that that is a kind of interesting silver lining to it. And I think it’s contrary to a lot of the kind of media narrative that said, “Families that are stuck quarantining with one another or stuck in lockdowns or whatever or any of this stuff are, tearing each other apart. And everyone’s hating one another, because they’re stuck in the house together.” That’s definitely not showing up in our survey.

And, again, teenagers you would think, again, engaging in a bit stereotyping here, but would be the most angsty, and thought of like, “Oh, being stuck with my parents for all of this time, it’s going to be like the worst thing ever.” It turns out that’s the sole thing that they said is actually better, that they’re actually closer to their families. So I found that at least somewhat heartwarming,

John Kristof: Can I make more jump actually before we move questions?

Michael McShane: Yeah, sure.

John Kristof: … the questions, because it’s this is also worth noting, is the demographic breakdown. And I dove into this quite a bit on the blog that I wrote on this-

Michael McShane: Sure.

John Kristof: … survey, but it’s also very important to note the kinds of people who seem to be saying that they’re doing worse now than before the pandemic. So you can see the charts for themselves, because they speak a lot. But teen girls are way more likely to say that they’re doing worse as far as happiness and mental health goes than teen boys are. Don’t know if that’s a different pandemic experience. Don’t know if that’s sociological differences, and processing emotions and things like that. I was a teen boy once. In addition to the gender gap there of 23 percentage points, there’s also a racial gap as well. Where the one group that we broke down that are, on average, across all the nine different questions that we asked in this category that said that they were doing better on average, was black teenagers.

They said that they were more likely to be doing better now than before the pandemic, on average. There’s definitely some negativity among Hispanic teens, who we were also able to break down, but it’s especially seems to be driven by non-Hispanic whites as well. And, again, why that’s the case is a little above my pay grade. I’m sure black students doing better now than before the pandemic is tied to what I mentioned with homeschooling earlier. But I just think when you’re talking about how teenagers are doing, I think those breakdowns are very important to keep in mind.

Michael McShane: Yeah. Colleen, I would love to hear your responses on this. Because, I think, yeah, I mean, there were a couple of these things that I thought were interesting. So we broke these things down based on what grade, whether they were in ninth and 10th grade versus 11th or 12th. It appears that the older students were having a rougher time. We broke it down by learning mode, which was completely in-person, a mix of both, or completely online. It looks like the folks who were completely online, had it worse off. As John pointed out, I mean I think the biggest spread that we saw was gender, where we saw two points… This sort of net difference, which John explained earlier to the people who are having the worst time people having a better times, subtracting them from one another, it’s only minus two for males, but minus 27 for females, just like a huge difference.

Again, comparing that to like learning mode, where completely in person was like minus 14 to completely online minus 19, so a pretty small difference, huge difference amongst gender. And as John brought up as well, race was really interesting, while black students was actually in the positive range, white students were minus 21. So the biggest gaps we saw were in race and gender, it was much less older versus younger or learning mode versus learning mode. So. Again, I mean I think there will be books and dissertations and everything happening on this, but we get to make the first cut of history here. So you get to plant your flag, so when you look at all of this, what do you see?

Colleen Hroncich: So I think on grade, it’s probably because 11th and 12th graders, they’re doing final things. They’ve got senior prom, they’re doing college applications, they’ve got their basketball championships, football championships. So I think that’s probably why the older kids have the bigger problems there. On the gender, I do think a lot of that is probably driven by social media, when the girls are spending so much time on it. There’s so many negative impacts that come from that. And I say that as a mom who has let her kids do that stuff, so I’ve witnessed it.

The learning mode, one thing that I thought was interesting is that the mix of both was the best option, not completely in-person or completely online, and I think that goes back to the hybrid homeschooling stuff that, Mike, you’ve written a lot about, and the polling has certainly indicated. So I think that policymakers should look at results like that and ponder as they move forward, giving people more options. And I agree with John that the race thing probably does have to do with homeschooling preferences that the black parents indicated in the surveys.

Michael McShane: So John, and actually, Colleen, I’d be interested in your kind of independent verification of this. We asked a question to students, what sources do you primarily get your information about current events from? And we offered them social media, TV, newspapers, news sites, family members, friends and peers, teachers, and podcasts. And while, though, we are on a podcast here, based on their responses, I don’t think any teens are going to listen to it.

John Kristof: Shout out to all the teenagers not listening right now.

Michael McShane: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Podcasts came in last, and by a pretty substantial margin, I don’t know if this is going to surprise people who are listening, but the winner was social media platforms with 66% of folks saying that that’s where they get their news from. Yeah, is this like an abandoned hope, all ye who enter here situation? Or how do you respond? Well, so maybe, John, let me know what you think of those numbers. And then Colleen, I’d be interested in sort of your direct personal experience with this.

John Kristof: Yeah. I’m not quite a teenager still, but I have grown up in an era where I’ve never really spent any time watching… My responses to this would be fairly similar, except podcasts would be a lot higher, because I’m a nerd. But social media, frankly, is where things are going, not just for entertainment, but entertainment’s shifting to social media, and different kinds of platforms from your traditional television to social media, because it’s more curated. It serves a shorter attention span, can be more colorful. I can go on for the various reasons.

In my head, I see these kinds of things and a pragmatic side of me comes out. And I honestly don’t know, in my personal opinion, I don’t know helpful it is to think about like, whether this is good or bad, or whether this is doomsday or exciting. So much as, this is just where we’re at and it’s kind of been inevitable. And so the questions are, how are we going to interact with social media as people who are interested in current events and try to speak to current events? And I think we never had a perfect media, and if you read newspapers, even dating back to the beginning of this country, there was a lot of weird things that happened, and the weirdness has just kind of changed over time.

So I think we’re just having to learn and adapt to new kinds of weirdness, TikTok dances and all, and figuring out how to speak through the noise. But also training ourselves as well as kids who are growing up knowing nothing else, how to navigate just all of the information and sensory data that are coming out them, and just deciding, how do we know what is true? How do we evaluate information and opinions while maintaining a sense of connection to our peers and also, our own kind of independent thoughts and ways of seeing the world and personal identity? It’s different and it’s weird, but what’s not weird is the task of just trying to navigate information.

Michael McShane: Shout out to the EdChoice TikTok channel, those of you who are on TikTok. And I don’t know what the podcast TikTok Venn diagram looks like, but edchoice.official, if you’re on TikTok, you can check out, edchoice.official, both John and I contribute to that.

John Kristof: Despite my friend’s best attempts, there are no dances.

Michael McShane: Yeah. There’s, no dances, so far, a lot of us talking about studies, but, you know what, maybe that’s where the kids are, and that’s where we’re going to reach them. So, Colleen, does this sort of ring true to you on this?

Colleen Hroncich: So not to brag, but I did find out the other day that my daughter, who is 17, follows you guys on Instagram.

Michael McShane: Oh, hey.

Colleen Hroncich: And that was not my doing, she just randomly pulled told me that, so there you go. It does. It totally does. And I agree with a lot of what John just said, especially about the need to… We realize this, so we have to make sure that there is good information available for them. The part that surprised me the most was that 50% cited TV news, newspapers, news sites, and radio, so that baffles me.

Michael McShane: Yeah, for sure.

Colleen Hroncich: I would not have thought 50% of teens are hopping on any of those. And I certainly hope that my kids are the 46% who are listening to their family members, especially their mom.

Michael McShane: Yeah, exactly. So then I want to close with one last question, which I thought was a really interesting one, and I’d be interested to hear both of your thoughts on this. So we’ve been asking a question in all three iterations of this, so sort of, as we mentioned before, we first put this poll in the field in August of 2020, then again in March of 2021, and then September of 2021. And so we asked this question, which of the following have you read, seen, or heard something about? And this is sort of current events, and they could select all old that applied COVID-19 pandemic, Black Lives Matter movement, LGBTQ rights, school reopening, climate change, abortion, voting rights, immigration, et cetera. And one of the things that I found super interesting was that, in almost all cases, the September of 2021 numbers are smaller for all of those things, that teens seem to be seeing less or are less engaged on all of these issues.

I mean, COVID pandemic went from like 91 to 81. Black Lives Matter, went from 89 to 77. LGBTQ rights was a smaller, 74 to 72. But President Biden’s administration activities went from 67 to 50%. So it seems like students are less engaged. Now, maybe, that’s some part of their year, but we asked them in August of last year, we asked them in September of this year. I’m trying to come up with a more coherent explanation to this, other than, maybe as the pandemic wanes, teenagers are going back to more teenage things. And when they were stuck in their houses, they had more time for this.

But I mean, Colleen, so that’s my first grasp. I do not have teenagers in the household, so I’m not there yet, in a few years I will be. But that was like my gut to this was that folks were kind of cooped up, and so you’re reading more and maybe they’re out being more like teenager now, but what do you think when you see those numbers?

Colleen Hroncich: Right. And they’re in school more now, too. They were-

Michael McShane: Oh, that’s a great point.

Colleen Hroncich: … as you saw in that other poll they were home, they were doing online school. There’s a lot of distractions when you’re in that situation. And now that they’re in the classroom, maybe they’re getting a little bit less of that, so that could be part of it too. But, yeah, the football games are back on, and all that good to teenage stuff. They’re spending less time in the news, which, yeah, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Michael McShane: John, do you see it similarly?

John Kristof: Yeah. I think it’s a combination of students are back in school more, hanging out with friends more, doing more teenage things. I also think being further away from the presidential race and subsequent fallout, I think is a-

Michael McShane: That’s a good point. I haven’t thought of that.

John Kristof: … big part. And I think things like less attention being paid to something like immigration or the Black Lives Matter movement or police and criminal justice reform, things that kind of very much colored 2020, which very much colored the presidential race. Those are the kinds of things that dropped somewhat noticeably, and more “classical issues,” if you will, for teenagers like climate change are a little bit higher. So those are the two factors that I keep in mind as far as where changes in priorities or preferences as far as what issues they care about the most come from.

Michael McShane: Well, look, team, this was a whirlwind. We covered four different surveys, lots of interesting stuff that was in there. Again, those of you that are listening at home, if this interests you, you want to dig into it, John mentioned it and I should have done it earlier, every time one of these surveys comes out, John writes super interesting, really easy to follow summary on our blog. You can just search EdChoice blog or EdChoice engage, I think, is the technical name of it. But you can definitely check that, he does some really interesting summaries of that.

If you go to edchoice.morningconsultintelligence.com, you can see all of the reports we put out each month. There’s a little resource download tab, where you can pull up these great PowerPoint presentation style things that Morning consult puts together for us. So please check those out, check out the cross tabs that are in there, if you have particular demographic group groups that you’re interested in.

So John, Colleen, thank you so much. Colleen, obviously, we are going to have you back on here to discuss these things. It was great to have your perspective across all of these. And you had to look through four surveys, normally, on a normal one, we’ll only ask you to look at one, but you looked at four and were a trooper, and we really appreciate it.

And thanks everybody for listening and always thank you to Jacob Vinson, our podcast producer, who is going to make us sound more coherent than we actually were, and fix any technical glitches that we have. So shout out to Jacob on that. I’m Mike McShane, Director of National Research at EdChoice, and it was great having an EdChoice Chat with all of you.