The 15th annual Education Next survey, conducted in June 2021, yields a host of specific results that reveal one large fact about the current state of public opinion on American education: The public is cautious—extremely cautious. In the presence of a still-circulating Covid-19 virus, a large percentage of parents and the broader public want schools to take strong measures to keep children safe as they return to school. Yet many parents are not ready to risk the injection of a Covid vaccine into their child’s arm, even as government agencies testify to its safety and effectiveness.
In this article, we report on the 2021 follow-up survey to polls of parents of school-age children that we administered in May and November 2020, enabling us to track children’s schooling experiences over the course of the pandemic. In late May and June—at the tail end of what was surely the most unusual school year in our nation’s history—we interviewed a representative sample of 2,022 parents with children in kindergarten through 12th grade. Every parent then answered a series of questions about each of their children. We oversampled Black and Hispanic parents, as well as parents with children in private and charter schools, which allows us to make more-precise comparisons between racial and ethnic groups and between school sectors. In addition to reporting on their children’s schooling experiences, parents answered some of the questions included in our parallel survey of a nationally representative sample of adults, the results of which are discussed more fully in a companion article that also provides details on the methods for each survey.