Recent Surveys Measure Opinions on Returning to School

By Julianne Nava

In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic that shuttered schools earlier this year, national organizations are attempting to mark opinions about how schools should reopen

Originally published Sept. 22, 2020; updated Sept. 28, 2020.

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues and schools begin to reopen virtually and in hybrid models, many surveys are attempting to gauge attitudes and beliefs of educators, parents and the public on how this can and should be done safely. LFA recently examined major surveys as part of a continuing project to help guide school districts in making tough decisions. Below is a compilation of noteworthy surveys, these will be amended and added as needed.

American Federation of Teachers

This survey focuses on teacher’s and parent’s views on reopening of schools later this fall. It is focused on issues of concern for these parties including impact of the Coronavirus on parents and teachers, attitudes about reopening schools, views on how to reopen schools, and assessment of remote learning.

Methodology: This survey consisted of two parts: a survey of public school parents and one of public school teachers.  This comprehensive national survey was conducted by Hart Research, on behalf of the following organizations: AFT, AROS, LULAC, and NAACP. The online poll was completed by 1,001 parents with children in K-12 public schools. It was conducted August 26 to September 6, 2020. The online survey of teachers working in public schools across the U.S. was conducted from August 26 to September 1, 2020.

Findings: Overall, the surveys found that many parents are afraid that they themselves or their child will catch the Coronavirus, but they agree that there need to be specific safety measures and resources to ensure students can securely return to in-person learning in the classroom. The survey determined that COVID-19 is impacting parents and teachers in similar ways and that both parties are concerned over risks of Coronavirus infection. Concerns about safety are a top priority for parents and teachers and both parties favor a strategic and phased reopening of schools. Finally, teachers and parents are divided on assessment of the impact of distance learning.

For more information about the survey: AFT survey


Common Sense Media

This survey focuses on teens thoughts and reactions to the Coronavirus pandemic on their school experience and success. Common Sense Media believes that it is critical to hear directly from these students about their feelings about online learning during the pandemic and returning to in-person instruction. The issue of returning to school is complex, and affects families, educators, and students. This survey seeks to fill the gap in student opinion, so that their voices may also be considered in the conversation.

Methodology: This poll from Common Sense Media and Survey Monkey was conducted between August 20, 2020 and August 27, 2020, with a national sample of 890 adults.

Findings: This survey found that teenagers miss the social aspects of school, with students worried about losing connections with friends, opportunities to engage in extracurriculars and pursue scholarships, and that COVID-19 will negatively affect their future job/college aspirations. It also found that the majority of teenagers find online learning to be worse than in-person learning, and that there is a strong preference to have academics centered in the brick-and-mortar classroom rather than virtually. Teens expressed worry about falling behind due to the pandemic. Learning remotely, the uncertainty of the pandemic, emotional upheaval, being able to access their teachers, and unreliable internet were all voted among the biggest academic challenges students will face this year.

For more information about the survey: Common Sense Survey


Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association

The ASPAA survey focuses on the teacher and staff shortage issues due to lack of education funding and COVID-19. For the sixth straight year, Arizona’s educators are leaving the classroom at high rates. This offers context and data to the problem of highly qualified educators leaving the profession of teaching in the hope of developing solutions.

Methodology: Sixth consecutive year of surveys by ASPAA with data on teacher/staff shortages. 145 school districts and charter schools throughout the state of Arizona participated in this survey. Parties were asked to report teacher vacancies and teachers who had already ended their employment as of August of 2020.

Findings: This survey found that both health and learning models concerned teachers. It also showcases the impact on staff, enrollment, qualifications/certification of teachers in the classroom, and funding when large numbers of teachers leaving the profession.

For more information about the survey: ASPAA Survey

2020 PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools

The poll by Phi Delta Kappa International addressed topics of continued interest and of emerging topics concern, including political attitudes and policy priorities, testing, problems facing public schools, substance abuse, charter schools and school vouchers, diversity, approaches to reading and literacy. It addresses the gradual changes in the beliefs and attitudes of Americans about the country’s public schools.

Methodology: Conducted March 2020. Poll administered by Gary Langer and Associates, and conducted using national representative Ipsos Knowledge Panel. Poll was based on the random representative sample of 1,030 adults, which included 206 parents of children in public K-12 schools. The field work for the poll was conducted between March 13th-23rd, 2020.

For more information: PDK poll.

Findings: Americans continue to be sharply divided along party lines when it comes to controversial issues in education. However, a large majority of Americans demonstrate that they want the federal government to take a more active role in supporting efforts in: Recruitment and retainment of teachers, making college affordable, protecting students from discrimination.

Additionally, a majority share disapproval with President Trump’s work in the education policy arena. 

Let Grow                    

Let Grow Nonprofit conducted two surveys, one month apart, focusing on how children would adjust to being out of school due to COVID-19 and what effect it would have on them.

Methodology: Two surveys (using same methodology) conducted in April 2020 and May 2020. Surveys samples from large and demographically representative list of people in the U.S., which is maintained by OvationMR. Surveys were only open to families that had a child between the ages of 8 and 13. Separate questionnaires were given to parents and children, with either the parent or child in a particular family filling out the questionnaire, not both. Around 800 parents and 800 child questionnaires completed for each survey.

Findings: Survey developed and sponsored by the Let Grow nonprofit. Findings were that the well-being of students psychologically appeared to improve after closure of school, citing variables of increased sleep, lessoned stress, few distractions and shorter school days online. Children seemed to gain a greater degree of independence and personal responsibility following school closure, with students finding new interests or skills notably from boredom. Parents felt a heightened appreciation of their children’s capacity to perform more difficult than when children were in school. One reason being that although stress was higher after school closure, the stress was not a direct result of children being at home. Most children looked forward to returning to school and their friends.

For more information about the survey: Let Grow Surveys


Education Next

2020 Education Next Survey of Public Opinion

This survey gives an early look at how the early months of the pandemic may very well shape the view Americans have on education policy in the future. Focused on top issues including teacher pay, school spending, online education, school choice, opinion on public schools and teachers, free college, Trump effect, and populism and education policy.

Methodology: Survey administered May 2020, to a nationally representative sample of 4.291 adults which included oversampling of teachers, and those who identify as Black and Hispanic.

Findings: Survey found support slipping for increasing teacher pay and dropping for shared state standards and Common Core State Standards. Findings showed partisan and racial divides on school choice and free college, a large divide on in-state tuition for students who are undocumented, Americans classifying themselves as populists holding distinctive views, the overall opinion on the Trump effect remaining the same, and racial divides in support for school spending. Finally, it found large gains for high school-level online coursework and approval for local and national public schools being near all-time highs.

For more information about the survey: Education Next Survey.


JAMA Pediatric

National Survey of Plans of U.S. Parents Regarding School Attendance for Their Children in the Fall of 2020

This survey focused on parent-reported plans to send children back to school or for them to remain at home. This decision depended upon the schools’ reopening for in-person or virtual instruction. Measures assessed also included family socioeconomic characteristics, medical vulnerability, worry about COVID-19/multisystem inflammatory syndrome, confidence in school, homeschooling challenges.

Methodology: Cross-sectional survey study where data was collected from June 2, 2020 to June 5, 2020. Survey studied 730 U.S. parents with school-aged children (5-17 years), using nonprobability survey panel that was stratified by socioeconomic characteristics.

Findings: Many families planned on keeping students at home for fall 2020. Emphasis on needing to act early in order to best address parental concerns and provide options for them if keeping children at home. Structural barriers needed to be acknowledged addressed, such as rigidity of workplace and inequities in implementation of preventative measures at the school level. For more information about this survey: JAMA survey


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