July 16, 2020

July 2020 Research Rundown

By Krista Kaput

Welcome to EdAllies’ July Research Rundown; our curated list of recent, relevant research we think is worth adding to the education equity conversation. As schools plan for the upcoming school year, this month we are sharing recent surveys where students, parents, and educators shared their experiences on how distance learning went. We hope these perspectives help to inform planning for the fall. 

1. Students Count: Highlights from COVID-19 Student Surveys 

Center on Reinventing Public Education, July 2020 

Many surveys about distance learning have focused on parents or educators, but a only handful have gathered perspectives directly from students. CRPE analyzed the responses from these seven student surveys—four of them nationally representative—and found that most students reported having negative experiences with distance learning. In one national survey, 67% of students reported that they learn better in-person compared to distance learning. Another national survey indicated that nearly 25% of teens reported that they connected with their teachers less than once a week, and 41% reported that they hadn’t attended an online or virtual class since in-person school buildings were closed.  Another survey found that while nearly two-thirds of students indicated that their mental health has worsened during the pandemic, only 40% reported that they have received support from an adult at their school. 

There were also differences in experiences depending on where students went to school, with twice as many private school students reporting that they connected with their teachers at least once a day (66% v. 31%). And students in rural communities reported feeling less connected to their school communities than students in the cities or suburbs. Furthermore, less than half of Black, multiracial or Latino students indicated that they had been able to focus on their learning, as compared to 50% of white and 62% of Asian students.


As schools make plans for the upcoming school year, student voice and experience should be at the center of all decision making. While we don’t have survey data on how distance learning went for Minnesota students specifically, our state House education committees hosted listening sessions where some students shared their perspectives. Students expressed a strong desire for more synchronous—or live—instruction. Students testified that they struggled with the lack of real-time feedback or opportunities to engage with peers online. As one student described: “One of the most difficult situations during distance learning for me was in the classes that did not provide teacher interaction. For example, a semester-long class, my peers and I had no opportunity to watch lectures or attend video calls on the materials we were supposed to learn.” 

These student experiences align with EdAllies’ analysis of 91 Minnesota distance learning plans, where we found: 

  • 36% specified that students would learn new content;
  • 23% indicated students would have access to live instruction;
  • 41% specified that teachers would offer office hours; and,
  • 42% indicated students would receive feedback on assignments.

Explore the findings

2. Teaching and Leading Through a Pandemic: Key Findings from the American Educator Panels Spring 2020 COVID-19 Surveys

Rand Corporation, June 2020 

RAND surveyed a nationally representative sample of teachers and administrators on a variety of topics related to distance learning, including curriculum coverage, contact with families and students, teacher training on remote instruction, and priorities for the upcoming school year. Overall, RAND found that while educators provided a variety of supports during distance learning, existing inequities were likely exacerbated. 

Only 31% of teachers reported that they mainly covered new content, with 46% reporting that they did mostly or all review. Also, only 49% of teachers in schools with higher concentrations of low-income students said they were able to get in touch with their students and families, as compared to 62% of teachers in schools with more affluent families. About one-third of teachers reported that they did not receive adequate guidance on how to support students with special needs. Principals echoed some of these concerns, with 85% citing concerns about providing equitable instruction and 74% concerned about their ability to communicate with families and students. Principals also noted that a major limitation to distance learning was students’ lack of internet access and devices. 

Looking ahead, the three biggest things teachers reported needing support in were: 

  • Learning strategies to keep students engaged and motivated,
  • Strategies for mitigating learning loss, and 
  • Guidance and tools for assessing students’ social-emotional well-being. 


Understanding the experiences of educators and principals during distance learning is important as we plan for the 2020-21 school year. The findings from RAND’s survey are consistent with findings from other teacher surveys. To make sure teachers are best prepared for the unknowns in the fall, districts and state leaders should listen to their needs and provide training that equips them with strategies for providing equitable learning opportunities, how to address learning loss, and supporting students’ social-emotional needs. Schools should also be working to get in contact with their students and families, while also making sure their learning plan—whether it’s in-person, hybrid, or distance—provides clear support and expectations to families, and is also translated into languages that reflect the communities they serve. 
Read the report

3. 2020 Education Next Survey

Education Next, July 2020 

Education Next asked a nationally representative sample of parents about their child’s experience in distance learning and, in particular, satisfaction with school response, how distance learning impacted their child’s academics, and how often teachers met with their child. The survey found that 71% of parents think that their children learned less than they would have if schools had remained open, but at the same time were happy with how the school responded. The survey also found that more than once a week: 

  • 46% reported their children having whole-class meetings; 
  • 19% reported their children having a one-on-one meeting with their teachers; 
  • 72% reported their children had required assignments; and 
  • 47% received grades or feedback on work. 

The survey also broke down the responses by race, income quartile, and school sectorcharter, district, or private. Overall, the survey found that charter and private school parents reported higher satisfaction with how their school responded to COVID-19 school closures, that their child had more one-on-one interactions with their teachers, and lower rates of learning loss than district school parents. Of particular note, while 61% of charter school parents reported their children had one-on-one interactions with their teachers at least once a week, the same was true for only 37% of district and 41% of private school parents.  


These national findings align with several of the findings from the Minnesota Department of Education’s parent survey. With over 134,000 families responding to the survey, the big takeaway was that 54% of them didn’t think that distance learning went well, and this sentiment was consistent amongst racial groups. And when asked about challenges during distance learning, the main findings were students’ social-emotional and mental health decreased, there were unclear lessons, not enough communication from teachers, and a lack of adult support. Across these metrics, larger rates of Indigenous, Black, and Latino parents reported concerns than Asian or white parents. Given that there will likely be at least some periods of intermittent distance learning or hybrid models, schools must collaborate with families to ensure that they are meeting the needs of their students, and particularly those most underserved.
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