BOSTON – A quarter of parents surveyed in a new poll said they planned to send their child to summer school this year if given the option, and more than half said their kids need to catch up academically after the past year-plus of education was thrown off-kilter by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The MassInc Polling Group surveyed 1,619 parents of students in K-12 schools from April 23 to May 14 for the fourth installment in a yearlong series, finding that nearly 70 percent of parents would prefer their child learns in a fully in-person model next year, with 19 percent favoring hybrid schooling and 9 percent preferring fully remote instruction.
Among different demographic groups, MassINC said that Black parents expressed “the most hesitancy” about a return to in-person instruction, with 54 percent backing full in-person school in the fall, 29 percent preferring hybrid and 12 percent remote.
Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley said Tuesday that all elementary and middle schools in Massachusetts are now offering full-time in-person learning and 99 percent of high schools met his deadline of May 17 to do the same. Riley has previously said his department is “planning for a full return in-person” for all K-12 grade levels in the fall.
Asked about different strategies to help their kids catch up academically, 64 percent said being back full-time in the classroom would be “very helpful.” Other moves that more than half of parents characterized as very helpful were frequent updates on their child’s academics, additional one-on-one or small-group instruction, and smaller class sizes.
“Black, Latino, and Asian parents, many of whom have been hit the hardest by the pandemic, are more likely than white parents to emphasize additional learning opportunities, including summer school, activities to do at home, and offering online instruction as an option,” the polling group said.
Thirty percent said they believed attending summer school would be very helpful, while 31 percent said it would be somewhat helpful, 20 percent said not too helpful, and 14 percent said not helpful at all.
Last month, Gov. Charlie Baker and Riley announced the availability of more than $70 million in funding for school districts and community organizations to offer summer learning and recreational programs, with an assortment of options for students.
As the state eyes ways to ultimately spend the federal dollars headed this way from the American Rescue Plan, parents expressed what the pollsters categorized as “broad support for a wide range of funding priorities.”
Fifty-four percent said offering summer school and after-school programs to more students should be a “major priority” for incoming federal funds, and an equal percentage said the same of additional resources for families like grocery assistance or extra school supplies.
Other areas that a majority of parents identified as major priorities include tutoring and extra academic support for students (72 percent), providing devices or internet access to families who need them (63 percent), hiring more teachers and school staff (61 percent), expanding early education to more families (57 percent), and curriculum that better reflects the experiences of people of color (53 percent).
The poll was sponsored by The Barr Foundation and developed with input from The Education Trust, MassINC said.