Students Count: Highlights from COVID-19 Student Surveys

Research Rundown Issue: July '20
Publisher: Center on Reinventing Public Education
Date Published: July '20


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.

Why This Matters in Minnesota

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