New Statewide Poll of California Parents Finds Satisfaction with Distance Learning Has Declined Significantly


New Statewide Poll of California Parents Finds Satisfaction with Distance Learning Has Declined Significantly 

Parents Offer Seven Key Solutions to Address the Digital Divide, Parent and Student Engagement, Anti-Racist Practices, School Funding, and More

OAKLAND, Calif. – Only 35% of California parents rate their child’s experience with distance learning as successful, according to a new statewide poll from The Education Trust–West. Compared to a similar poll conducted in March 2020, 57% of parents rated their distance learning as successful, representing a 22-percentage-point drop in confidence over the past six months. Satisfaction with distance learning among parents with lower incomes was at 30% and parents of color at 35%. Similarly, parents with lower incomes (36%) and parents of color (37%) are less likely to be satisfied with schools’ preparation for the fall semester. As educators and leaders plan for the spring semester, parents are expressing support for how schools can close the digital divide, increase engagement with educators, address racism in school curriculum, and increase school funding. 

“Despite the fact that everyone was forced to quickly adapt from in-person to distance learning in March, parents—particularly parents of color—are increasingly losing faith in the education that their children are receiving,” said Dr. Christopher J. Nellum, Deputy Director of Research and Policy at The Education TrustWest. “While parents initially were optimistic about schools’ approach to distance learning, parents want to see a renewed urgency from schools, districts, and policymakers.” 

Key poll findings include:

  • Teachers of Color: Parents across racial lines believe it is important for their child’s school and/or school district to hire and retain educators of color (75%) and for Black parents (91%).
  • Digital Equity: Lack of reliable internet access is a top concern among almost half (44% of parents) and also for 52% of Latinx parents. Only 35% of parents report that their child’s school has made free internet access available. Only 59% of parents said their schools provided access to technology devices like iPads or laptops (60% for Latinx and 63% for Black parents). 
  • Communication with Parents: One in two parents (50%) have not received information from their child’s school for the spring semester. 
  • Real Time Instruction: Over half of parents (55%) report they want more real time instruction. 
  • Prop 15 and Prop 16: Parents are generally supportive of both education-related propositions to be passed on the ballot this year. Seventy-seven percent of parents say they support Proposition 15, while 66% say they support Proposition 16. 
  • Racial Injustice: Fifty-two percent of White parents said leadership at their child’s school talked about racial injustice some or a lot compared with 41% of Black parents and 42% of Latinx parents. 
  • Health and Wellbeing: More parents (62%) are very concerned about the safety and emotions of their children now compared to 41% in March. This is more of a concern for parents with lower incomes (67%) than parents with higher incomes (59%). Most parents (67%) reported that their child’s stress levels are higher than usual, compared to just 45% in March.

“The transition to distance learning is having a real impact on families and students, and nowhere is that unprecedented impact more pronounced than among families of color,” said Dr. Elisha Smith Arrillaga, Executive Director of The Education TrustWest. “Parents of color have critical concerns about their students, whose stress levels are rising. At the end of the day, educators and parents want the same thing, which is for all students to be well supported, safe, and learning. Now is the time for our school communities and state and federal officials to listen to feedback from parents and learn from their experiences. We can reimagine the upcoming semester, move from crisis to opportunity and make the changes necessary to equip all students for success.” 

Moving forward, parents across the state shared solutions to address the challenges they face:

  1. Increase access to teachers. Ninety-four percent of parents reported regular access to their child’s teacher would be the most helpful thing schools could do to help parents and students, including live online lessons or phone/video calls. 
  2. Prioritize digital equity and close technological barriers. A lack of reliable internet access is a top concern, particularly for parents with lower incomes (58%) and Latinx parents (52%). In addition to providing internet access, 92% of parents of color would like their schools to lend mobile technology devices like iPads or laptops to each child in the family.  Eighty-eight percent (88%) of parents of color said that providing free internet access would be helpful.  School leaders and policymakers can utilize this digital divide tool to assess the digital divide in their regions. 
  3. Provide access to academic resources or tutors. Ninety percent of parents said having access to these additional resources would be helpful (93% for Black parents). Schools can partner with community-based organizations to provide resources and distance learning support. 
  4. Ensure communication with families is accessible and frequent. Ninety-three percent of parents (94% for parents of color) said it would be helpful if schools stayed in regular contact with families to ensure students and parents remain connected to the school community. Only forty-eight percent of parents said they had regular contact with school personnel to ensure connectedness.
  5. Address antiracism and racist practices. While 56% of parents overall are satisfied with their schools’ approach to addressing and teaching about racism as part of the curriculum, only 52% of parents of color are satisfied. Schools can implement anti-racist instructional practices through resources such as A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction, a toolkit for supporting equitable access to math standards for English Language Learners, Black, and Latinx students. 
  6. Invest in school funding. Parents support action from state and federal governments to support students. Seventy-seven percent of California parents support Proposition 15, legislation that would increase funding for K-12 public schools and community colleges through reforming commercial and industrial property taxes. Over two-thirds (69%) of parents strongly support the federal government investing more public funds to help schools during the pandemic. 
  7. Recruit and retain teachers of color through Prop 16. Sixty-six of all parents support Proposition 16, which could end California’s ban on affirmative action. If Proposition 16 passes, it will allow district and school leaders to intentionally hire and retain teachers of color. Seventy-five percent of parents say it’s important for their child’s school to hire and retain educators of color. 

The online poll among 800 parents of children in California public schools was conducted by Global Strategy Group from October 1 – 7, 2020. Learn more here.


About The Education TrustWest 

The Education Trust–West works for educational justice and the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, pre-K through college, in the state of California. We expose opportunity and achievement gaps that separate students of color and low-income students from other youth, and we identify and advocate for the strategies that will forever close those gaps.

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Karla Fernandez

Communications Manager

Karla Fernandez (she/her/hers) joins Ed Trust–West as a Communications Manager with over 11 years of experience advancing social impact initiatives.

Karla started her career as a teacher at Chicago Public Schools and UIC College Prep. After teaching, Karla joined United Friends of the Children to support LA County’s youth in foster care as a college counselor. Through Leadership for Educational Equity, Karla also served as a Policy Advisor Fellow for the office of a Los Angeles Unified School Board Member. She solidified her interests in policy analysis and quantitative research during her time with the Price Center for Social Innovation, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, and the USC Presidential Working Group on Sustainability. Before joining The Education Trust–West, Karla was the Associate Director for the Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) Collaborative, a network of nonprofits advocating for communities in SELA.

Karla holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology from the University of Chicago, a Master of Public Policy from the USC Price School of Public Policy, and a Graduate Certificate in Policy Advocacy from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Karla is based out of southern California and is passionate about using data analysis, communications, and digital strategies for policy advocacy and social justice efforts.