Survey Finds Regional, Racial Divides in K-12 Remote Schooling Impact During Pandemic

New nationwide survey by Tufts University researchers finds that parents credit schools with limiting academic harms but see damage to social relationships
A chart of remote schooling broken down between white students and students of color
Image courtesy of Tufts Equity Research Group
May 25, 2021

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Robin Smyton

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More than 70% of K-12 students across the country experienced some remote schooling during the 2020-21 school year, with stark differences emerging along regional and racial lines and the worst effects on students’ social relationships, according to a new, nationally representative study conducted by Ipsos, using its KnowledgePanel, for the Tufts University Research Group on Equity in Health, Wealth and Civic Engagement.

Thirty percent of students in the South attended entirely in-person, compared to just 11.5% in the West. Sixty-one percent of students in the West attended entirely remotely, significantly more than in the other regions.

Northeast

Midwest

South

West

Entirely in-person

17%

27%

30%

11.5%

Entirely remote

50%

32%

26%

61%

Mix of both

30%

36%

35%

23%

Did not attend school

3%

4%

9%

5%

White students were most likely to attend in person. Parents or guardians of color were somewhat more likely than white parents to report negative academic experiences with remote learning, but that difference was within the margin of error. (Given the sample size, analysis of specific racial and ethnic groups is not possible.)

The survey was fielded online between April 23 and May 3, 2021 and had 1,449 respondents, 248 of whom provided responses about their own children’s schooling experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. Statistics based on these 248 responses have a margin of error of +/- 6.2 percentage points.

About 24% of K-12 students attended school entirely in-person, 39% entirely remotely, 32% in a hybrid mix of both modes, and nearly 6% of school-aged children did not attend school at all.

Parents reported the worst effects on their children’s social relationships, followed by physical fitness and emotional wellbeing. On academics, slightly more parents reported positive than negative effects from the measures their schools took to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Image courtesy of Tufts Equity Research Group

All data included in the survey was reported by parents or guardians describing their own children. Parents were not asked about the overall impact of the pandemic, but specifically about the measures that their children’s schools had taken to limit the spread of the virus.

“Many parents seem to credit schools with making the best of the situation, although some see bad effects, especially on social relationships,” said Peter Levine, an associate dean at Tufts’ Tisch College of Civic Life and co-principal investigator of this study.

Tufts University’s Research Group on Equity in Health, Wealth and Civic Engagement was established in 2019 as part of a strategic effort to use resources and expertise across the university to address major global issues. It brings together researchers from across the university to discuss and investigate aspects of equity and inequity in the United States and the world. The research has been funded by Tufts University’s Office of the Vice Provost, the Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts, the Tufts Data Intensive Science Institute and the Tufts Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute. 

For more data and findings from the Research Group on Equity, please visit https://equityresearch.tufts.edu/.

The group’s principal investigators are Jennifer Allen, professor of community health in the Tufts School of Arts and Sciences; Peter Levine, associate dean for academic affairs and Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship & Public Affairs at the Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts; and Thomas Stopka, associate professor of public health and community medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine. Other members of the group can be found here.