Online School

Denver parents say kids are learning less in online school, survey finds

Written by Mamie M. Arndt

While online education has become a necessity of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new survey found most Denver parents feel their children are learning less when seated in front of a computer versus in the classroom.

The survey of 647 Denver parents with school-age kids found 65% said their students were learning less online. That percentage was higher among parents with kindergarteners (80%) and elementary students (69%), while 60% of those with middle and high schoolers reported their students were learning less than if they were attending classes in-person.

On average, 23% of parents said their kids were learning about the same and 5% said they were learning more, according to the survey.

The survey, conducted by Keating Research, polled parents between Jan. 4 and 10 to gauge their experiences with remote learning, and had a margin of error of 3.9%.

The findings dovetail with another, statewide survey of 650 Colorado parents conducted by advocacy organization Transform Education Now, in which 54% reported they believe their children are falling behind academically during the pandemic.

While Keating’s survey respondents are based in Denver, not all students attend Denver Public Schools. In fact, 17% of parents reported moving their children out of Colorado’s largest public school district this semester, opting instead to homeschool (8%), enroll in a private institution (6%) or transfer to a different district (4%).

Of those who enrolled at a private school, the majority of families made $75,000 per year or more (75%) and about half (49%) were white. Hispanic (11%) and Black (9%) families were more likely to homeschool their students, compared to white families (2%), the survey said.

Still, 64% of parents with children in Denver Public Schools said they are satisfied with the learning options the district is offering. Those with kindergarteners are the most critical, with just 48% satisfied with the district’s offerings, compared to 55% of elementary parents and 62% of secondary school parents.

That doesn’t mean they all feel the instruction is adequate. Keating reported about half of parents think the district is doing a fair or poor job teaching student during the pandemic versus a good or excellent job. That was true of the wider sample sentiment, too: Half of Denver parents feel that schools are doing a fair (30%) to poor (20%) job educating their child during the pandemic, while the other half feel that schools are doing an excellent (20%) to good (29%) job.

According to the survey, part of that sentiment is due to the number of hours kids receive live instruction from their teachers — an average of four hours per day, respondents said. Parents also most commonly reported their students frequently or occasionally had a hard time understanding lessons, logged in but did not engage, and had to search for outside resources to help them understand a lesson or catch up to the rest of the class.

About the author

Mamie M. Arndt