Perhaps no topic has been covered as much as the pandemic’s impact on schooling across the country. School districts everywhere face parents (and teachers) up in arms both for and against going remote to quell growing Covid case numbers. The debate that stands is whether or not infection risks outweigh the risks to our children’s collective education experience. New CivicScience data point to growing concern among the majority of parents about just this. 

Forty-two percent of parents of K-12 children say that the most difficult consequence of pandemic school closures and virtual learning has been the impact on their kids’ education– nearly double the amount of parents who indicate that their child’s social skills have been impacted the worst. Nineteen percent of parents surveyed say the most difficult part has been the impact on their kids feeling safe and their mental health.

It’s no surprise that nearly half say education is the biggest consequence of back and forth distance learning, quarantines, and closures: another poll found that 67% of parents of school age children say their kids are behind academically.

The data point to a striking correlation between income bracket and parental perceptions about their kids falling behind or not. The higher the parent’s household income, the more likely they are to feel their child / children are behind in school due to Covid. This could have to do with a slew of factors, from education quality to personal expectations, but the correlation is strong. Parents in the lowest income bracket studied (under $35k annually) report the most positive impact on education as a result of the pandemic.

It appears for some parents that not having your child in school in person actually helps their ability to learn, not hinders it. CivicScience explored this more below.

Cross-tabulating with residential areas points to education quality having something to do with personal pandemic schooling experience.

Parents in cities are the most likely to say their child is ahead due to the pandemic, potentially due to the fact that, in many cases, city school districts are not as up to par as districts in suburban areas, which usually have more funding. Even people in rural areas report slightly better schooling outcomes than those in suburban ones.

Ultimately, the pandemic’s impact on parents’ jobs is an enormous factor in academic achievement in kids right now, and could explain part of the income insight found earlier in the study. 

Those who are out of work due to the pandemic are the least likely to say their kids are behind right now and the most likely to say their children are at least on track. This is likely because these parents are at home without other distractions and able to help them with their distance learning, even more so than parents who are working jobs at home in addition to helping with school. Parents who work outside of the home over index in indicating their kids are behind in school right now, for quite obvious reasons. Juggling at-home learning and countless closures, parents who have to work in a physical location are scrambling to get support with their kids’ schooling, and don’t have the bandwidth to manage it.

As schools grapple with cases and exposures leading to closures and remote learning, the impact on many families will go well beyond the current days of the pandemic and could have consequences in the long run. The data do show that in some cases, however, there is a silver lining to remote learning for portions of the population.