Survey: Idaho charter parents, teachers happy with pandemic response

A New York-based surveying group found that patrons of Idaho charter schools are generally happy with their school’s response to COVID-19 and the 2020-2021 school year.

During a Thursday forum hosted by charter support group BluumThe FDR Group showcased its findings from interviews with 1,489 parents and 322 teachers from 12 Idaho charters.

FDR  co-founder Steve Farkas said the responses earned the schools a “reservoir of trust” that they can “draw from in the future.”

Farkas showed that 88% of teachers agreed that their school “genuinely values and cares about me and my colleagues” while 89% of parents said they “trusted (their) school to do what was right for (their) child.”

While 79% of teachers and 86% of parents praised charter school leadership, respondents were not favorable to other local leaders tasked with navigating the pandemic. Just 33% of teachers and 34% of parents thought that their local health district showed excellent leadership. That number plummeted for state-level education leaders, with 21% of parents and only 12% of teachers expressing favor with their leadership during the pandemic.

“The further leadership is for the people evaluating them, the more unsure, or critical, they can be of them,” Farkas said.

Most of the surveyed schools were open in either a hybrid format or fully in-person for most of the 2020-2021 school year, and many of them were in their first two years of operation, Bluum CEO Terry Ryan noted.

Part of the trust underscored in the survey, Farkas added, came from strong communication. In the group’s surveying, 93% of parents said they were happy with the communication from their charter.

“Adapting quickly is one thing. Communicating is another,” Farkas said.

There were “pockets of concern,” according to Farkas. Of those interviewed, 23% of parents said their child is behind. Among teachers, 62% agreed that they covered far less material with students than in an average year, and 57% said some subjects were “short-changed” to focus on academic essentials.

“It’s a recognition that there was a cost for the year,” said Farkas.

About one-third of teachers and parents agreed that summer school would be crucial to catching students back up.

Despite the overall positive responses, many of those surveyed still said there was an emotional toll from the pandemic that needs to be addressed. Among parents, 26% said COVID-19 had a major impact on their child’s emotional health, while 59% said there was a minor impact. Most parents said there would be a benefit to emotional or mental health counseling for students — 33% said it would be a large benefit, 26% said a moderate benefit and 20% said a small benefit.

“We’ve only started to understand the consequence of the past year,” said Farkas.

With all Idaho schools ending the 2020-2021 school year with in-person instruction, the FDR Group also asked teachers and parents what they liked about the year. There were no majority results, with 35% finding they had clearer and engaging lesson plans, and 28% noting more responsiveness to students via text messages and online links sent out.

Despite those comments, Farkas said it didn’t negate the challenges of online learning.

“It would be violating the data to say that online learning has arrived,” Farkas said.

Charters that participated in FDR Group’s survey, which ran from March 31 and May 4, include:

  • Compass (Meridian)
  • Elevate Academy (Caldwell)
  • Fern-Waters (Salmon)
  • Forge International (Middleton)
  • Future Public School (Boise)
  • Gem Prep (Meridian)
  • Treasure Valley Classical Academy (Fruitland)
  • White Pine (Ammon)
  • Anser (Boise)
  • Hayden Canyon (Hayden)
  • Idaho Arts (Nampa)
  • Mosaics (Caldwell)
Nik Streng

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