What are parents’ views on education? | John Watson | 2 Min Read

This blog post is republished from the Digital Learning Collaborative blog – February 18, 2021.

Our recent blog posts have looked at policy and practice developments from states and schools, and opinions from a variety of experts. Arguably, however, parents are as important as any other group in determining what changes will stick in education. With that in mind, we have been monitoring some recent opinion polls regarding what parents think about education during the pandemic. The data points and graphics in this post are from the National Parents Union, their polling, and their Twitter feed.

First, NPU’s most recent polling shows that 53% of parents have a child attending school remotely, and 42% would prefer to continue with remote learning. This is higher than the percentage that would choose all onsite, or a mix (27% and 26%, respectively).


The graphic above doesn’t show responses by race, but other polling from NPU suggests that non-White parents did not expect to feel safe sending their children back to school as quickly as White parents.


Although that poll is from mid-2020, a recent New York Times article paints a similar picture:

“School closures have hit the mental health and academic achievement of nonwhite children the hardest, but many of the families that education leaders have said need in-person education the most are most wary of returning.

That is shifting the reopening debate in real time. In Chicago, only about a third of Black families have indicated they are willing to return to classrooms, compared with 67 percent of white families, and the city’s teachers’ union, which is hurtling toward a strike, has made the disparity a core part of its argument against in-person classes.”

Another ongoing topic of discussion has been social and emotional health of students. NPU’s polls show that parents have been concerned about these issues as well, and concerns have been rising.


A final, and most compelling, point:

“One thing that has been very consistent: parents don’t just want to “go back to normal.” They want to go back to *better* – to an education system that rethinks how we educate children.”


By 59% to 35%, parents believe that schools should rethink education instead of getting “back to the way things were before.”

We are hearing the same from many teachers, school leaders, and policymakers. But it won’t be easy. Let’s hope the pressure and momentum are sustained even when the pandemic has passed.

John Watson

As Evergreen’s founder and primary researcher, John Watson is responsible for conducting, writing, and presenting research as well as providing testimony on digital learning matters to state boards of education, legislatures, and charter school commissions. He has extensive knowledge and experience based on his two decades working in online learning and education technology. This background has afforded him a wide-reaching network across the spectrum of education professionals, policymakers, and subject matter experts as well as the ability to provide insightful, dimensional analysis and recommendations. After earning his MBA and a MS in natural resource policy at the University of Michigan, John went to work for one of the first Learning Management System companies, eCollege, in early 1998. He launched eCollege’s K-12 division, called eClassroom, and managed eClassroom’s research and business development. This experience was the springboard for John’s independent consulting in environmental policy and education which evolved into what Evergreen Education Group is today. John is deeply moved by stories of students and teachers who have been positively impacted by technology in classrooms, online courses, and innovative schools. He strives to tell these stories accurately and to clearly explain the challenges inherent with digital learning in order to bring an honest, balanced perspective to Evergreen’s insight and recommendations. His ability to approach research and relationships with consideration for bias and hierarchy makes him a natural connector between information and people. John has presented and led panel discussions at numerous conferences and convenings. In addition to his research for Evergreen, John writes regularly about various issues related to digital learning and is a contributing author of the Handbook of Research on K-12 Online and Blended Learning. His and Evergreen’s work has been cited in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Education Week, and eSchool News, and he has also appeared on NBC Nightly News.

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