Public Schools Are Supported but Face Challenges

By Richard M. Long

New surveys find significant challenges related to technology, ransomware and connectivity as schools reopen and resume operations

Three reports recently shared with the education community found strong support for public education, but schools are facing unprecedented demands in areas of learning loss, use of technology and connectivity, and cybersecurity.

One survey that was conducted by the National School Boards Action Center (NSBAC) was designed to provide information to assist in understanding how likely 2022 voters view public education. One of the findings is that 46% of parents of children who were educated online were in favor of the modality for their children.  And 25% believe that their children did well.  However, one of the most significant findings is that learning loss is one of the biggest concerns of likely voters.

Significant in this study was the strong support that public education has when it is put in the local context.  Respondents were likely to support an increase in taxes to support their local schools.  And while this has been found in other surveys, that the public is highly critical of any move of public funds to private schools.  However, unlike other studies, this report included information on how public schools are seen in the most favorable light.  As a national or state issue it is viewed positively, but when it is local and linked to specific local needs the support is strong. 

Another interesting trend was the support of personalized learning.  Over 74% of the respondents were in favor of this concept.  And this is also supported by the identification of technology needs as being critical for learning, which is something the public is aware that needs to be expanded. These needs include access to broadband.

Interesting to note is that survey also found that school board members were viewed by the voting public as more favorable than other elected officials.

NSBAC’s data was enhanced because they oversampled usually unrepresented groups. They also chose states with likely contested U.S. Senate races. Originally, NSBAC planned to do a follow-up from their last year’s survey in three of four years.  However, with the upheaval caused by the pandemic they decided to conduct a new survey this year. Data was collected by telephone and the internet in the spring of 2021 and reports a margin of error was 3.1.

CoSN Surveys Find Ransomware, Connectivity as Top Challenges for Schools

The second presentation was on two CoSN (Consortium of School Networks) surveys.  This presentation provides information on two critical factors.  One is the leadership of the school network community, and the other is the state of Student Home Connectivity.

The leadership of the school network community report that they have several critical issues.  The top issue is that school networks are being held for ransom by cyber criminals at an alarming rate – which is only increasing.   They are also reporting that working in silos is becoming an increasing concern.  Additionally, technology staffs are too small for the ever increasing demands.  Plus, schools are becoming more aware that the key element for connectivity isn’t simply the internet, it is access to broadband and the ability to connect to it.

The report also noted that the use of remote counseling is up 53%.

In the Student Home Connectivity study, the issue of connectivity was also significant but with other elements.  Students also need to have new routers, especially when there is more than one heavy user of the internet at home.  One reason for this is the shift to the use of more and more video for instruction.  This need to attend to associated equipment also includes having antennas in the home as well as processing power in the connecting devices.

An interesting element is how the data revealed issues for rural communities.  The overall perceived needs are lower than expected.  One reason seems to be that if one hasn’t seen what is possible it is hard to imagine that you need it.  Yet, another factor also comes into play, parents want their children to be taught ‘real world skills.’

Overall, there are several key lessons.  Key is that there is no one solution and this includes within a district as well. In the report, there are examples of how different types of districts have widely differing needs and as such need different sets of solutions.

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