Insights and Emerging Recommendations from Distance Learning Parent Survey

By Daniel Chiat, Amber Zhang, and Leah Zhang

As schools speedily transitioned to distance learning, we began supporting leadership in their effort to gather quick, systematic, and actionable parent feedback. Dozens of schools leveraged our no-cost, sample distance learning survey questions on their own, and three schools of different sizes, geographies, and affiliations partnered with us to administer surveys on their behalf (garnering on average a 80% household response rate!).

While in no way should these findings be interpreted as conclusive or representative of how distance learning is being administered and received by families, responses collected from more than 1,200 parents of children currently attending independent school provide a constructive window into the mindset of the ‘consumer’ and how school leadership can take action. With distance learning – at least in some form – likely to be utilized by many schools during the 2020-21 academic year given the current and projected life of the pandemic, the topic is certainly relevant.

Based on the quantitative and qualitative data collected in addition to the findings’ debrief conversations we had with school leadership, here are five key takeaways:

  1. The vast majority of teachers are distance learning superheroes. On the key teacher-related questions, parents from each of the schools responded very favorably. In our dataset, 80% of parents indicated that the number of communications received from faculty is “just right”. And perhaps more importantly, nearly 90% of parents responded affirmatively to “faculty members engage well with my child” via distance learning. 
  2. Establishing the right amount of distance learning lesson time is challenging. The schools on average had two-thirds of parents indicate that the number of hours spent in distance learning lessons is “just right”, which is a good foundation to build upon. But two schools had a significant contingent of parents – no matter the division of their child(ren) – report that the time spent in lessons was not enough. For these schools, seeing this response prompted considerations on programmatic tweaks such as providing optional learning opportunities with specialists and sharpened communication strategies to better explain the “why” behind the existing lesson schedule.
  3. Parents with younger children feel less prepared to engage in distance learning than parents of middle or high schoolers. This likely comes as no surprise – but more interesting and actionable for schools are the improvement suggestions articulated by parents of younger children. These include setting a weekly schedule, articulating daily “must-do” and “can-do” lists, and providing instructions on how to manage distance learning through videos.
  4. The educational content is perceived as pretty strong – and consistent – across the various divisions. About 80% of parents of K-12 students, regardless of division, affirmed that “the educational content is high quality.” (Parents of little ones had slightly less enthusiasm on this topic, coming in at 67% affirming.)
  5. However, the technology is not perceived as favorably as the educational content. This also may not be such a shocking takeaway – but again, more interesting are the improvement suggestions. Regarding technology, the trends in the open ended responses centered around parents’ desire for more consistency, including in use of platforms (e.g. Google Classroom, Zoom, GoogleHangouts, etc.) across various teachers and departments.

Perhaps most encouraging, the participating schools registered solid overall satisfaction marks from their parents, giving leadership and their faculty reassurance that their tireless efforts during these challenging circumstances are being appreciated by parents. 

For questions about these takeaways, or to find out more about Measuring Success’ tailored survey offerings, please email Daniel.