Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 4, 2020

CONTACT:
Mondi Kumbula-Fraser
[email protected]
301-802-4044

Parent poll sheds light on distance learning as Montgomery County, MD officials plan on how to safely open schools

Montgomery County, Md (June 4, 2020) – As Montgomery County decisionmakers decide how to safely open schools, including retaining some form of distance learning, a new poll released today by The Black and Brown Coalition for Educational Equity and Excellence sheds light on Montgomery County parents’ thoughts on at-home learning. While the majority of parents (74%) say their child’s school is doing an excellent or good job handling the coronavirus, 3 in 4 parents (75%) are concerned about their children falling behind academically due to coronavirus-related school closures. They are also very concerned about their children staying on track to graduate from high school and go on to college.

The countywide poll, commissioned by The Education Trust and conducted by the Global Strategy Group, finds that while the county has performed well under the circumstances, there are clear barriers that parents feel prevent their children from successfully participating in distance learning while schools remain closed. These feelings are especially prevalent amongst parents of color and families experiencing financial difficulties. For example, slightly more than half of all parents (53%), including 6 in 10 Latinx parents (60%), and more than 3 in 4 (77%) low-income parents making less than $50K annually are concerned they do not have the resources or supplies to help their child stay academically on track.

“The long-time inequities, which the pandemic has called into sharp contrast, come through clearly in parents’ concerns about access to high-speed internet and devices for distance learning and the lack of academic resources, like regular communication with teachers or materials in a student’s native language, which are disproportionally affecting our county’s students of color and students from low-income backgrounds,” said Black and Brown Coalition for Educational Equity and Excellence co-founder Byron Johns who also serves as the Education Chair of the Montgomery County, MD Chapter of the NAACP.

This is a particularly stressful time for parents, who have real fears about how their families will cope during this period. With unemployment and uncertainties ripping through the economy, and entire families at home most days, Montgomery County parents are reporting higher-than-normal stress levels in both themselves and their children. More than 7 in 10 (73%) parents report higher levels of stress than usual, including over a third (34%) who say their level of stress is much higher than usual. Latinx parents (40%) and parents making less than $50K annually (39%) were more likely to report that their stress levels were much higher than usual.

Key Poll Findings:

Academic Support

  • Nine in 10 parents reported received instructional materials for math (90%) and reading/English (89%), but just half of parents reported receiving materials that cover science (50%) or social studies (48%).
  • Nearly all parents (93%) would like regular contact with or access to their child’s teacher; 62% say that their school is providing that access.
    • This need is even more unmet (i.e. larger gap) in Senate Districts 18-20 (38 pt gap), Latinx parents (40 pt gap), and families who are low-income (44 pt gap)
  • Almost 9 in 10 (87%) of parents would also like regular contact with or access to a school counselor, yet just 45% say their school is providing that access.
    • This need is even more unmet for Black parents (64 pt gap), non-English speaking households (56pt gap), and families who are low-income (60 pt gap)

Digital Divide and Distance Learning

  • About one-quarter of parents reported challenges with distance learning. The most common concerns reported across all racial groups was that assignments were confusing (23%) or that distance learning software was difficult to use (24%). These problems were more acute for parents whose home language was not English – with a little more than a third of those parents reporting such challenges (difficult software: 35%; confusing assignments: 34%)
  • Almost three-fourths of parents (72%) say providing free internet access to families while schools are closed would be very helpful for families like theirs, but only 41% reported that their child’s school was doing that.
    • This need is even more unmet in Senate Districts 18-20 (42 pt gap), among Black parents (47 pt gap), families who are low-income (64pt gap), and parents of English learners (36 pt gap).
  • Nearly 8 in 10 (79%) parents reported that technical assistance to get set up for distance learning would be helpful, but just under half (47%) reported that their school is doing this.
    • This need is even more unmet in Senate Districts 18-20 (40 pt gap), Black parents (43 pt gap), and families who are low-income (54 pt gap).

Well-being

  • About 7 in 10 (71%) of parents say that they would find it helpful to be connected to resources that can help with food, housing, employment, health, and other emergency needs, but just 4 in 10 parents report that their school is doing this.
    • This need is even more unmet for Black parents (52 pt gap), non-English speaking households (49 pt gap), and families who are low-income (49 pt gap).

“As Montgomery County begins to reopen and educators’ priorities shift from the day-to-day to planning ahead, what parents have to say takes on a new importance,” said Black and Brown Coalition for Educational Equity and Excellence co-founder Diego Uriburu who also serves as the Executive Director for Identity Inc. “While this is the beginning of the conversation on the best ways to safely open schools, the voices of parents must be considered.”

In total, 408 parents of children in Montgomery County public schools were polled online (desktop and mobile) from April 20 to April 27. These poll results follow parent polls released in WA, CA, TX, and NY amidst the COVID-19 pandemic impacting school closures all across the state and the country.

###

About The Black and Brown Coalition for Educational Equity and Excellence

The Black and Brown Coalition for Educational Equity and Excellence is a partnership of community organizations and individuals standing together to challenge the systemic patterns of inequities in education in Montgomery County Public Schools. This partnership was founded by the Montgomery County NAACP Parents’ Council and Identity, Inc. and has grown to include over two dozen organizations which collectively serve tens of thousands of families as the voice for Black, Brown, and low-income students, in order to demand equitable access to resources, opportunities and supports needed to be successful in college, career and life. Learn more at: MoCoEdEquitynow.com