By Megan Schumann, Rutgers University Office of Communications
Two-thirds of Americans are “somewhat” or “very” concerned about the quality of education they or their children are receiving during the pandemic, according to a nationwide survey by researchers from Rutgers University–New Brunswick, Northeastern, Harvard and Northwestern universities.
While a majority believe education has been affected by the pandemic, 68 percent approve of keeping schools closed to in-person learning. Fifty-six percent support requiring students to take the COVID-19 vaccine before returning to the classroom. Support for such a requirement increases with income.
“American school children have faced a variety of learning environments, varying by time and place, and ranging from all-virtual, hybrid and all-in-person school,” said co-author Katherine Ognyanova, an assistant professor of communication at Rutgers University–New Brunswick’s School of Communication and Information. “As with other aspects of the pandemic, community response has often been vocal and polarized.”
A majority of parents of K-12 students indicated they thought their children learned less than they would have without the pandemic, including 49 percent of parents of primary school students, 55 percent of parents of middle school students and 52 percent of parents of high school students. Parents of pre-school children were most likely to indicate their children had learned “the same” (47 percent) and least likely to indicate their kids had learned “less” (39 percent).
In general, women were more likely to believe their children are learning less during the pandemic.
“There are very different conditions and resources available to schools across communities,” said Ognyanova. “In-person teaching is ideal but only where it's possible to do it safely and CDC guidelines can be met. Getting resources for schools will be especially important when the time is right -- ensuring that testing, social distancing, adequate ventilation, masks and other necessities can be provided."
According to the report, majorities in 46 out of 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, support prohibiting in-person teaching in K-12 schools with the exception of Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota. Majorities in 35 states support mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for children before they return to school including 63 percent of New Jerseyans.
Seventy-one percent of Democrats, compared to 53 percent of Independents and only 41 percent of Republicans, approve of such a requirement.
Among racial and ethnic groups, approval of requiring vaccines ranged from a low of 54 percent among whites to a high of 68 percent among Asian Americans. African Americans (55 percent) and Hispanics (62 percent) fall in between the extremes.
Men are more supportive of a vaccine mandate than women (61 percent vs. 52 percent).
The researchers polled 25,640 people across all 50 states plus the District of Columbia from Dec. 6-Jan. 11.
The COVID States Project is a joint project of the School of Communication & Information at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, the Network Science Institute of Northeastern University, the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy of Harvard University, Harvard Medical School, the Department of Political Science and Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University. The consortium has released 38 reports and has charted public opinion related to COVID-19 topics since April.
Photo caption: A new survey finds a majority of parents of K-12 students think their children learned less than they would have without the pandemic.