National PTA released the findings of a national survey exploring parents’ mindsets as the 2022-2023 school year ends. This is the third survey exploring parent mindsets this school year and the sixth in a series of surveys commissioned by National PTA and supported by the CDC Foundation. The survey included more than 1,400 parents and guardians with children in grades K-12 in public schools. It was conducted April 12-26, 2023, by Edge Research.
Key findings of the survey show:
- School violence and bullying lead parents’ concerns. More than six-in-10 parents surveyed reported they worry a lot or somewhat about school violence, and this worry experienced the largest increase over the course of this research effort.
- Parents overwhelmingly want schools to provide safe learning environments where all students have a voice and use historically accurate educational materials. Ninety-six percent of parents surveyed indicated they believe schools have a responsibility to keep students safe in the classroom, and 92% believe schools should make sure all students feel seen, heard and included at school.
- Parents want to be a part of school efforts to support their child’s emotional and mental health. Most parents surveyed indicated they strongly support schools providing services to support students’ emotional and mental health, and they believe it is healthy for students to have the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings with other trusted adults who are not their parents. Parents also unequivocally want to know if their child’s school is providing their child with emotional and mental health support.
- Most parents are very interested in summer programs and activities. Most parents surveyed indicated they are very interested in summer programs and activities designed to keep their children physically active, interacting with other children and/or supporting their learning. There is a significant gap, however, between parents’ interest and their knowledge of whether such programs or resources are available or accessible through their child’s school this summer.
- Parents continue to be comfortable with their children being in school in-person. More than half of parents surveyed indicated they are very comfortable having their children in school. In addition, approximately half of parents believe the pandemic is almost over or over.
“As the 2022-2023 school year comes to a close and we enter the summer, the findings from our survey provide valuable insight into parents’ concerns and perspectives as we look ahead to the next school year,” said Anna King, president of National PTA. “We want to ensure all families are aware of resources and programs available that will support their children’s emotional and mental health. It is also important that our families advocate for, and our children receive, culturally inclusive and historically accurate curriculum and educational materials. And it is important that families know about the programs and resources available to keep their children active and learning this summer. It is critical that all of us work together to create learning environments where all students feel safe, supported, seen and most importantly, heard.”
In the survey, 61% of parents indicated they worry about their child experiencing violence at school and 57% of parents reported they worry about their child being bullied at school. While these concerns have risen significantly over the course of the research effort, parents’ concerns about their child getting COVID and being behind academically have declined since August 2021, with 37% of parents surveyed indicating they worry about their child getting COVID and 44% of parents indicating they worry about their child being behind academically.
Parents maintain overwhelming support for mental health resources and services in schools, with 90% of parents surveyed indicating they support this. And this support is consistent across all demographic groups. Ninety percent of parents surveyed also indicated they would allow their child to fill out anonymous surveys about their thoughts, feelings and experiences to help measure students’ emotional and mental health needs in schools overall and help schools identify areas where they need to offer more support, programs or resources for students and their families. Additionally:
- 95% of parents surveyed reported they want their child’s school to notify them if they are providing their child with mental health support.
- 88% of parents surveyed indicated they agree that in some situations it is good for students to be able to share their thoughts and feelings with a safe adult who is not their parent, such as a teacher or another member of the school staff.
- 86% of parents reported they want their child to know they can go to adults at school if they have a problem or worry that they don’t feel comfortable sharing with them.
- 79% of parents reported they believe their child’s school should have to obtain their consent before providing their child with mental health support.
- 76% of parents surveyed indicated school staff should be allowed to keep at least some things private from conversations with students (if the student requests privacy). Parents of boys are more comfortable allowing privacy than parents of girls.
When asked about schools offering summer programs:
- 95% of parents reported being interested in social activities or clubs for students to interact with other kids with similar interests.
- 94% of parents surveyed reported being interested in sports programs or activities aimed at keeping kids physically active over the summer.
- 88% of parents reported being interested in summer learning programs to help their child as they keep learning over the summer.
- 85% of parents surveyed reported being interested in emotional or mental health support services offered at school or in the community.
As families look ahead to next school year, most parents surveyed say they will read the syllabus provided by their child’s teacher and skim their child’s textbooks to see what content they include, but few parents indicate they will go further than this. More parents, however, report they would take action if content is missing than if they disagree with included content, with 64% of parents surveyed reporting they would talk to their child’s teacher and 54% of parents reporting they would talk to the school principal if they found out their child’s school was removing or avoiding content that they feel is important. More than 90% of parents surveyed indicated they believe schools should use educational materials that are historically accurate and reflect the diversity of our nation’s history, and 86% of parents indicated they believe schools should use curriculum that prepares students to think critically and to actively participate in our democracy.
Parents’ comfort with their children being at school in-person remains strong, with 84% of parents surveyed reporting feeling comfortable with this. Forty-nine percent of parents surveyed also reported they believe the pandemic is almost over (23%) or over (26%).
“Across the arc of the pandemic, we’ve seen parents’ concerns about COVID-19 and school change, and today half of parents believe the pandemic is over or almost over and parents feel quite comfortable with having their child at school in person,” said Judy Monroe, president and CEO of the CDC Foundation. “What has not changed is that parents continue to voice strong support for schools offering mental health resources and services to children.”
Parents overwhelmingly want schools to provide safe learning environments where all students have a voice, with 96% of parents surveyed indicating they believe schools have a responsibility to keep students safe in the classroom and 92% indicating they believe schools should make sure all students feel seen, heard and included at school.
“The majority of parents want all students to feel seen, heard and included at school. Parents have also identified the importance of safe and supportive schools,” said Kathleen Ethier, PhD, director of CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health. “When learning environments are safe and supportive, students feel engaged and connected and their health and well-being improves. Promoting safe and supportive schools, promotes the health of students.”
National PTA, in partnership with the CDC Foundation, hosted a virtual townhall on Creating Safe, Supportive Learning Environments for All Students. The townhall featured conversations with experts, advocates and parent leaders on the state of adolescent mental health, efforts to foster student well-being and how parent leaders can champion school-based mental health in their communities. A recording of the townhall can be viewed on National PTA’s Facebook page.
“At PTA, we remain committed to bringing together families, schools and communities; making sure families’ voices and perspectives are heard and included; and bringing knowledge, tools and resources into the lives of families to help them navigate challenges and thrive,” said Nathan R. Monell, CAE, National PTA executive director. “Our townhall and parent surveys are an important part of these efforts and our association’s mission to make a difference for the education, health, safety and well-being of every child and make every child’s potential a reality.”
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