Throughout the 2021–22 school year, parents of color and parents with low incomes have expressed worries about their children’s mental health, socialization, and academic skills. Many schools and districts have developed targeted interventions. But as schools and districts develop these programs to address students’ academic and social needs, the data show those programs do not always reach the students and families most affected by the pandemic.
We conducted a nationally representative survey from April through May 2022 and found the following:
- Black parents and low-income parents reported the highest levels of concern over their children’s needs.
- Twenty-four percent of Black parents report concerns about the amount their child is learning at school, compared with 14 percent of white parents and 18 percent of Hispanic parents.
- Asian, Black, and higher-income parents reported fewer negative experiences—such as a call from school or homework struggles—compared with white parents and lower-income parents. But Black parents reported the highest rates of receiving notes or calls from school about behavior.
- Parents with low incomes were more likely to report that their students were at risk of not progressing to the next grade, were struggling to keep up in class and with homework, and were experiencing anxiety.
- Black, Asian, and Hispanic parents are more likely than white parents to express interest in interventions such as summer school, mental health supports, and tutoring.
- The lowest-income parents are most likely to be interested in both summer school and mental health interventions.
- White parents and high-income parents were significantly more likely to report being offered mental health supports than low-income parents and parents of other racial and ethnic groups.
The data highlight two issues. First, offerings of COVID-related interventions and supports are not distributed in accordance with interest and are distributed unevenly across racial, ethnic, and income groups. Second, in many cases, the proportion of parents who are participating or would participate is actually lower than the proportion being offered interventions, suggesting that even if offered universally, participation in these interventions might be low.
States and districts are best positioned to address access by creating policies to ensure interventions are widely available and equitably distributed. To address parents’ low interest, community, district, and state actors should highlight the importance of interventions by communicating with parents about learning gaps that have emerged during the pandemic. These actors must also ensure that their specific offerings align with parents’ desires, schedules, and need to facilitate participation.
Pandemic recovery efforts are unlikely to close gaps if they are not offered to and taken up by communities most affected by the pandemic. Narrowing these learning and opportunity gaps will require investment and coordination between schools and their communities to ensure high-quality supports are both provided and taken up by those who need them most.
Get the Data
- Disparities in Educational Access in the Time of COVID: Evidence from a Nationally Representative Panel of American Families
- Why some parents are sticking with remote learning—even as schools reopen
- Test Score Patterns Across Three COVID-19-impacted School Years
- Concerns about child well-being during the 2020-21 school year were greatest among parents of remote learners
- A Blueprint for Scaling Tutoring Across Public Schools
- Addressing Learning Loss in Disadvantaged Kids
- COVID Harmed Kids’ Mental Health—And Schools Are Feeling It
This essay was updated June 28, 2022, to include additional funder language in the acknowledgments section.