Parents Reflect on Uncertainty of School Reopening

Education Trust-Midwest survey shows parents are concerned about children falling behind

By Brian Gutman

As the calendar moves further into the summer and closer to the beginning of school, the uncertainty around schools reopening amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic is weighing heavily on the minds of Michigan parents.

About 82 percent of parents said that they were concerned about ensuring their child does not fall academically behind during distance learning, according to an online survey by The Education Trust-Midwest in the final weeks of last school year.

Lara Farhat, parent of sixth and eighth grade students in Southeast Michigan, is concerned about the ability of schools to support students in an online learning environment. “Teachers are really essential to students’ education, and computers cannot substitute for that… it is about the support that schools are prepared to provide for students to ensure the child’s success.”

These concerns are well supported by research, finding that online-only learning is generally not a good substitute for in-person instruction, although it can be a strong complement to traditional classroom instruction. With nearly one in five parents reporting that they lack a reliable, high-speed internet connection, device, or both, barriers remain for students to access and be supported in an online learning environment.

Asya Obad speaks with Brian Love of the Education Trust-Midwest about her thoughts and concerns heading into the 2020-21 school year.

Asya Obad speaks with Brian Love of the Education Trust-Midwest about her thoughts and concerns heading into the 2020-21 school year.

Parents with limited English proficiency and the parents of students with disabilities report facing far greater challenges to provide their child with the support that they need to succeed. Only about one third of parent respondents reported that their school or school district provided instructional materials to support students with disabilities or English learners during distance learning at the end of last school year.

“How is a parent who doesn’t speak English supposed to be able to help their child understand how to complete that packet,” said Asya Obad, parent of two children in Dearborn Public Schools, and two students in college, referring to the packets sent home that students were expected to complete during school shutdowns.

“Kids learn from kids, too,” Obad added, saying that English learners benefit from their peers at school, catching onto words, sentences and phrases from others around them. “It is going to be a struggle.”

As Michigan approaches the 2020-21 school year, it will be even more important for schools and districts to develop comprehensive plans to meet the unique learning needs of their students, regardless of where learning is happening. Our students deserve nothing less.

The Education Trust-Midwest conducted a survey April 29 to June 20, 2020 of 1,030 parents/guardians with a child enrolled in school. The survey was administered online and was completed by parents/guardians of children in grades P-12.

Ed Trust-Midwest Continues its Call for Quality Virtual Instruction

Amber Arellano, Executive Director of the Education Trust-Midwest, in March called on state leaders to ensure quality virtual instruction was an essential part of the school experience for Michigan’s students.

That recommendation, first made when schools shuttered across the state due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is just as relevant today as schools discuss reopening plans.

“State leaders can play an essential role in providing high-quality, consistent virtual instruction aligned with college- and career-ready standards to Michigan students,” said Arellano in the Detroit Free Press editorial.

That recommendation was one of six key strategies The Education Trust-Midwest outlined in June to address decades-long underinvestment in education and opportunity gaps disproportionately impacting students of color, students from low-income families, students with disabilities, English learners and students in rural communities.

Read the full set of recommendations in ETM’s 2020 State of Michigan Education Report, A Marshall Plan: Reimagining Michigan Public Education.

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