By Carly Sitrin, Politico
Remote learning continues to be a concern among New Jersey parents, though most say they are generally pleased with the way their schools and the state are handling reopenings during the pandemic, according to a new poll.
The survey, conducted by Global Strategy Group in partnership with charter school advocate organizations JerseyCAN and the New Jersey Children’s Foundation, found that 77 percent of those questioned rated the job their schools are doing as positive while 70 percent approve of the job Gov. Phil Murphy is doing reopening schools.
However, only 42 percent of parents rated remote learning as successful. While 66 percent of parents reported remote learning this fall has improved from last spring when schools went remote suddenly due to Murphy’s school closure order, the survey found a meaningful disparity with remote learning success — especially among low-income Black and Latinx parents.
“These survey results confirm what has been long known, but too often not addressed in providing remedies and resources for students of color in New Jersey,” Richard Smith, president of the NAACP New Jersey State Conference, said in a statement. “Just as we saw in the spring, we continue to see many Black and Brown students experiencing significant learning loss.
“There is no doubt our academic response to COVID has exacerbated too many students’ academic achievement gap in our communities,” Smith said. “Our state must seek and obtain the needed resources and remedies to address the unequal education and educational opportunities that are hindering the current and future development of communities of color.”
More schools are pivoting from their in-person or hybrid plans to online-only learning as new coronavirus cases continue to top 4,000 a day. The Woodbridge School District this week announced it will be switching to remote-only classes, joining many others, including three of the state’s largest districts — Jersey City, Newark and Paterson.
About the poll: Democratic consulting firm Global Strategy Group conducted the statewide survey of 600 parents from Oct. 7 to Oct. 16. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Results: The data shows low-income parents and parents of color, whose communities have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19, are much more concerned about the virus than their white or wealthier counterparts.
Seventy-two percent of low-income parents said they were very concerned about their child contracting the virus, including 70 percent of Black parents, 60 percent of Latinx parents, and 66 percent of remote learners. Only 52 percent of high-income families were likewise concerned, as were 52 percent of white parents and 47 percent of parents of in-person/hybrid learners.
Internet: The digital divide continues to be a top concern for families. More than eight months after schools first closed in March, the state has calculated nearly 40,000 students still lack consistent and reliable access to the internet or a device for online learning.
According to the poll, 44 percent of parents reported being concerned about whether they will be able to afford internet access. Six in 10 said providing free internet access during this fall semester would be “very helpful” yet only 21 percent said their child’s school has made this available for students.
Only 8 percent of parents statewide said they receive free internet support from their school; just 1 percent of Black parents and 3 percent of remote learners reported the same.
Nearly a third of parents surveyed said their child does not receive any technology support. Of those who are receiving support, 27 percent of low-income families — especially low-income Latinx families — and more than one in five parents of remote learners said the support given to the family is in fair/poor condition.
Recommendations: JerseyCAN offered state policymakers several recommendations to improve education in New Jersey during the pandemic. The group is calling on the state Department of Education to conduct a “comprehensive, statewide estimate” of students’ learning loss and use that information to drive the state’s recovery strategy. It also wants the state to ramp up support to school district summer learning initiatives, and give parents the option for their child to repeat a grade, if necessary.
On the digital divide, the group is urging the state to expand its digital divide grants program.