What Every Private School Must Know for the 2020–21 School Year

What Every Private School Must Know for the 2020–21 School Year
What Every Private School Must Know for the 2020–21 School Year

School Heads//

July 19, 2020

When COVID-19 hit the United States, most schools were unprepared for the transition to distance learning. Students, parents, faculty, and staff adapted to the new processes together.

ISM recently conducted a survey to better understand how parents feel about their private school’s transition to distance learning this spring. ISM’s Crisis-Driven Distance Learning Satisfaction Survey was provided to schools to distribute to their parent bodies. Between April 17 and June 2, 2020, 16,450 parents from 135 schools participated.

In the survey, we asked parents to rate their school’s distance learning implementation and provide details on what improvements were needed.

As we consider the 2020–21 school year, most schools will use distance learning in some capacity during the year. The survey results can guide any course corrections as you transition from the fall to the winter months. It might also substantiate actions your school took so you can repeat them if you must once again offer distance learning. (Note that data is still being analyzed for further learnings.)

One thing is clear. When it comes to distance learning and family satisfaction in the new school year, schools will be held to a much higher standard.

How Well Did Schools Perform?

Overall, parents felt that their schools managed the transition well. The average response across all divisions (early childhood, lower school, middle school, and upper school) was positive—an “A-.”

Parents also rated:

  • Communication from school leadership: “A” across all divisions
  • Teacher communication: “A” from early childhood parents, “A-” from all other divisions
  • Remote learning experience: Ranged from “B” to “B+”

Parents reported overall positive opinions about the platforms and technologies their schools used. The systems were judged to be easy to use and access, supportive of learning, and helpful in keeping students connected to their teachers and classmates.

Though the data collected spanned more than six weeks, there was no indication that the date when the survey was completed had any influence on opinions. No one gave more favorable grades based on their increased comfort level with distance learning or “getting used to it.”


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The Impact on Future Enrollment

The survey also asked what impact the COVID-19 crisis might have on future enrollment. The good news is that the most frequent response (almost 7,500) was the crisis has “no impact” on the family’s intention to keep their children enrolled through the school’s highest grade level. The next largest response was that the crisis had significantly increased their intention to remain enrolled.

For respondents who reported that the crisis negatively affected their decision to re-enroll, the factors identified as most significant were:

  • the quality of the distance learning experience offered by the school;
  • the amount of support they received from teachers; and
  • how well the school handled the transition.

Parents who are considering removing their children from their current school did not cite the following elements as factors in that decision:

  • student safety issues;
  • personal financial issues; and
  • the prospect of losing participation in athletics and cocurricular activities.

It may appear surprising that student safety was not at the top of the list, but it still concerned some respondents and is expected to be a major factor as schools plan reopening in the fall.

When asked to what degree the school relied on parents to provide instruction, less than 20% of parents responded that they felt they were given too much responsibility. Most of these parents had children in early childhood programs.

The big takeaway is that parents who were provided sufficient assistance and guidance, had frequent communication from teachers and leadership, and felt they received a quality education experience maintain a positive view regarding future enrollment.

The survey results illustrate what worked and what didn’t in a distance learning format. As your school plans for the 2020–21 school year, use this data to ensure you continue offering value to your families, no matter the educational delivery method.


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