Caregivers Express Concern About Children’s Educational Progress

Caregivers’ Concern That Their Children Are Falling Behind in School, California, July 2021

In March 2020, many students faced an abrupt and confusing change to their schooling as restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic kept them from physically attending school. In November 2020, 72% percent of California caregivers reported that their children’s school had closed at some point in the first nine months of the pandemic. Students across the state had varied experiences with remote instruction, including the amount of time they attended virtual school, the quality of remote learning, access to needed technology, and more. Even if a child did not experience school closure, their education may have been disrupted with new routines, leading many caregivers to wonder, “Is my child falling behind in school?”

Caregivers shared their thoughts on the Family Experiences During the COVID-19 Pandemic questionnaire. Nearly two-thirds of California caregivers (65%) were concerned that their youngest school-aged child was falling behind in school at the end of the 2020-2021 school year, including 29% who were moderately concerned and 17% who were extremely concerned. A father of a 10-year-old girl and 14-year-old boy shared, “As a parent, I worried about my children’s education. I think that was the biggest concern… so I tried to help them and make the remote studying [more] acceptable.”

It is too soon to know whether concerns about educational progress foretell academic outcomes. Early in the pandemic, high school graduation rates stayed nearly flat, with about 84% of California students graduating in 2019 and 2020. Among third-graders, about half of all students met or exceeded grade level standards in English language arts (49%) and mathematics (50%) in 2019, but because of temporary testing suspensions, more recent data are unavailable. As students continue to fulfill graduation requirements and academic testing resumes, future data collection will fill in the story of pandemic-induced academic disruption.

National-level findings show that caregivers who were somewhat to extremely concerned about their child falling behind in school were more than twice as likely to spank, slap, or hit their child than those who reported no concern (22% compared with 10%). This finding, along with additional findings and recommendations, was published in an American Academy of Pediatrics snapshot, “Parental Concern About Children Falling Behind in School During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Prevent Child Abuse America, and Tufts Medical Center. Based on this finding, pediatricians and others might ask parents about their children’s education and how they are dealing with their concerns. Resources for pediatricians and families can help provide guidance.

Children’s Health Resource

Historic Crisis, Historic Opportunity: Using Evidence to Mitigate the Effects of the COVID-19 Crisis on Young Children and Early Care and Education Programs is a policy brief from the Education Policy Initiative at the University of Michigan. It shares findings from a systematic review of 76 studies on early care and education programs during the pandemic and offers policy recommendations.


Join us for a webinar where we will further explore the findings on caregivers’ concerns about their children’s educational progress. During the webinar, Child Well-Being During the Pandemic, Lori Turk-Bicakci, KidsData’s director, will discuss this topic and provide an overview of its data source, share findings, and demonstrate how to access the data on the KidsData website. Also, Tracy Mendez, California School-Based Health Alliance’s executive director, will share information on the pandemic’s impact on young people from the perspective of school-based health centers (SBHCs) and how SBHCs can help address concerns about student health and well-being.

The webinar will take place on November 18th from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. (PST). Please register here.

Recently Released Data

We recently released data about high school graduation, college eligibility, and physical fitness. See links to the latest here.

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