After two consecutive school years marks by on-and-off school closures and online instructions, most American parents now worry more about their children falling behind academically than potentially getting COVID-19 at school, according to a new survey released Friday.
The survey was conducted by Pew Research Center among 2,241 American parents with children in K-12 from Jan. 24 to 30, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points and a 95 percent confidence level. The respondents were asked how much do they care about the possibility that students will fall behind academically without in-person instruction.
According to Pew, 64 percent of respondents said they care “a lot” about their children struggling academically. When the same question was asked in February 2021, it was at 60 percent. Fifty-four percent of parents said the same thing in July 2020.
Meanwhile, when asked how much they worry about the “risk to students of getting or spreading the coronavirus,” 64 percent of parents in July 2020 said they worried about that “a lot.” The number fell to 45 percent in February 2021, and 43 percent this January.
Compared with adults, children are found to be at much lower risk of experiencing severe illness due to COVID-19, according to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
Pew also noted that it is more likely for Republican parents (76 percent) than Democratic parents (63 percent) to say “a lot” of consideration should be given to the possibility that students will fall behind academically without in-person learning. Republicans (56 percent) are also slightly more likely than Democrats (50 percent) to say that their biggest concern is not being able to work if their children are at home.
The survey comes as reports highlight hindered educational progress at local, state, and national levels. Earlier this week, a teacher at Patterson High School in Baltimore, Maryland, told a local news outlet that 77 percent of students there were reading at an elementary or even kindergarten level.
“They’re pushed through [grade levels],” the teacher told WBBF, an NBC affiliate. “They’re not ready for the workforce. They’re not ready for further education.”
The results of school’s iReady learning assessment appeared to confirm the teacher’s claim, reported WBBF. Out of 628 students tested, 484 showed a reading level equivalent to that of an elementary school student, including 159 who were at a kindergarten or first grade level.
In January, an analysis of student-level test data by education researchers at Michigan State University also suggests that Michigan students who learned remotely learned less than peers who attended schools in person over the 2020-2021 school year.
The findings echoed that of an earlier national study by McKinsey & Company, which found that the pandemic has left American students, on average, five months behind in mathematics and four months behind in reading by the end of the 2020-2021 school year. Unless the year’s learning loss is properly addressed, the consulting firm warned, today’s students could earn $49,000 to $61,000 less over their lifetimes, costing the domestic economy as much as $188 billion every year when they enter the workforce.