About 70% of families report that their children learned “much less” or “somewhat less” when public school campuses were closed last quarter to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, new survey results show.
And a solid majority — 84% — want their kids back in school this fall at least for some days each week.
The figures come from an online survey conducted by Panorama Education for the Hawaii Department of Education that garnered 32,572 responses from parents and guardians through June 30. Families could fill out one survey for each child they had in public school.
Looking ahead to the new academic year, 39% of respondents want their children to attend school full time with face-to-face instruction and another 45% want a “blended” model, with students splitting time between on-campus and distance learning.
Nearly 17% would prefer to keep their children at home full time doing education online when school starts Aug. 4.
While fear of the coronavirus is propelling much of that desire, a sprinkling of respondents — 8% — felt their kids actually learned more at home with distance learning than they had while on campus in regular school.
Roughly 22% of families said their kids learned “about the same” amount while studying online or using instructional packets at home as they had learned while on campus. Another 33% said their children learned “somewhat less” and 37% said they learned “much less” during distance learning in the last quarter of the 2019-20 school year.
Hawaii’s 256 public schools abruptly shifted to distance learning when concern about the spread of the coronavirus kept school buildings shuttered after spring break in March. Assignments were labeled as “enrichment,” attendance was not required, and no student was penalized for failing to participate, since not everyone had equal access to technology and other resources.
“It wasn’t mandatory to do the work, but it was encouraged so that we’d use our brains while we were at home,” said Sarah Lei Lumauag, whose senior year at Pearl City High was disrupted by the pandemic. “There’s a lot of people, including me, who didn’t study as much, weren’t as focused.”
Most students’ final grades were based on their performance during the first three quarters of the year. Those who were at risk of failing a course had a chance to improve their grades in order to pass.
Lumauag, 17, graduated as one of Pearl City High’s valedictorians and plans to attend UH West Oahu. But even she has a little trepidation, given how her school year ended.
“It’s kind of difficult because now that I’m going into college, I don’t necessarily feel as prepared,” Lumauag said. “I haven’t had an in-person class since March.”
About 78% of parents said their child had “consistently” participated in online learning during the campus closures while 39% reported their students had “consistently” used paper packets from school, with overlap between the two. A separate survey of teachers released last month had much lower numbers for student participation, especially those in grades six through 12.
Families gave high marks to schools and teachers for their efforts to support student learning during the closure of school buildings. Only 6% said the school/teachers were “not at all helpful,” while 35% called them “extremely helpful.”
Another 27% said the schools and teachers were “quite helpful,” followed by 20% choosing “somewhat helpful,” 12% “slightly helpful” with 2% not aware.
Cheryl Kuroiwa, who is both a parent and a first grade teacher, said that because assignments were not required, it was natural that students learned less in that last quarter. She expects things to change in the new academic year when assignments and attendance will count.
“When you poll the parents and they say my children didn’t do the work, you know why? It wasn’t mandated!” Kuroiwa said in an interview. “You’re comparing apples and oranges.”
“Now when we go back to school, it’s going to be mandatory, you must do the work, you must check in every day,” she said. “There’s a big difference.”
Kuroiwa’s son, who was in eighth grade at Highlands Intermediate when campuses were closed, stayed on track in the last quarter with weekly Google Classroom assignments in English and math, and kept playing his saxophone for band. This summer, he got a jump-start on high school by taking online courses for credit in geography and economics.
She would prefer that he continue studying completely online this fall to reduce the chance of anyone in the family contracting COVID-19. But she supports his decision to attend Pearl City High under its hybrid instructional model, which will have him on campus one day a week, she said.
The survey revealed that parents and guardians felt their biggest barrier to distance learning was their job (45%), followed by “caring for other children” (13%). About 7% cited lack of technology, internet access or other tech issues.
On average, 81% of families said their child has a home computer to use for distance learning, but the figure ranged by complex area from as low as 58% to as high as 90%.
About 18% of respondents overall said their children had been issued a laptop or tablet by their school to use at home during the closure. Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander families were more likely to need and have received those devices.
School is scheduled to start Aug. 4 with half days for students for the first two weeks. Each public school has selected its instructional model, with most opting for a combination of in-person and online instruction. About 14% of elementary schools chose full-time face-to-face instruction.
The Hawaii State Teachers Association and the Department of Education agreed Monday that all meeting spaces, including classrooms, will be configured to maintain 6 feet of distance among students and adults. Any schools seeking closer quarters will need to request a contract exception by July 21.
Full results of the Panorama Education distance learning surveys of families, teachers and students are available online at bit.ly/HIDOEDistanceLearningSurveyDashboard. A report summarizing the data can be found at bit.ly/HIDOEDistanceLearningSurveyReport.