Education policymakers and advocates should prioritize the views of parents as they work to improve education policy. But understanding parents’ views is made more difficult by three factors:
- The current media environment sacrifices context for clickbait. New polling data is good for a catchy headline but is too often considered in isolation from broader context or long-term trends.
- Parents’ opinions are neither monolithic nor static — they are nuanced, evolve over time, and vary in how they translate to action.
- The specific wording of survey questions can skew responses — and interpretations — if they are not assessed in the context of other data points.
The Parent Perception Barometer brings clarity and context to conversations about what parents think about K-12 education. From parents’ high-level perceptions about their kids’ schools to concerns about academic progress and mental health, multiple data sources provide insight into these trends. Some of the data highlight topics about which parent opinion is more divided. There is no substitute for directly engaging with parents and families to understand what educational opportunities and support they need, but we hope this tool serves as a starting point for those working to better understand aggregated parents’ views on K-12 education, the broader landscape, and how both are evolving as the pandemic progresses.
Bellwether’s Parent Perception Barometer tracks data over time from a variety of sources, including Gallup, Pew, and the University of Southern California. A March 2022 Bellwether analysis found that:
- Over the long term, most parents have been satisfied with schools — both their children’s schools and local schools.
- A majority of parents want to see schools change to address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Parents’ concern for their children’s academic progress remains high in 2022.
- Two years after the pandemic began, a majority of parents remain worried about their children’s mental health.
- Worry about sending kids to in-person schooling is down, but some parents remain concerned.
- In most states, public school enrollment has yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels.
Bellwether’s Parent Perception Barometer examines a range of polling questions on a continuum, including themes on parents’ grades of their child’s school and quality of education provided; parents’ appetite for bold new approaches to K-12 education; parents’ concerns about whether their child is on track academically; parents’ perceptions of students’ mental health; and their level of comfort with in-person schooling. The tool also layers in K-12 student enrollment statistics for states that have released 2021-22 school year enrollment data.
- Beacon Research
- EdChoice/Morning Consult
- National Parents Union/Echelon Insights
- National School Choice Week
- Pew Research Center
- University of Southern California
The Parent Perception Barometer is a project of Bellwether Education Partners co-authored by Alex Spurrier, Michelle Croft, Juliet Squire, and Andrew J. Rotherham. This site and tool are made possible by support from the Walton Family Foundation. The views and analysis presented — as well as any errors — are the responsibility of the authors alone.
- Authors: Alex Spurrier, Michelle Croft, Juliet Squire, and Andrew J. Rotherham
- Editor: Amber Walker
- Web development and graphic design: Giant Rabbit
- Copy editing: Super Copy Editors
- Communications support: Lerner Communications
- Homepage header image: Allison Shelley for EDUimages
If you would like to learn more about this work or the support Bellwether can offer your school or organization, contact us.
We would like to thank the many individuals who gave their time and shared their knowledge with us to inform our work on this project. We are particularly grateful to the Walton Family Foundation for its financial support of this work.
We would also like to thank our Bellwether colleagues Linea Koehler and Priyanka Patel for fact-checking, and Valentina Payne and Alexis Richardson for their support on the project. Public opinion expert Mark Blumenthal provided valuable insight and perspective. Thank you to Lerner Communications, Alyssa Schwenk, Abby Marco, Zoe Campbell, Julie Nguyen, and Amber Walker for shepherding and disseminating this work, Super Copy Editors, and Giant Rabbit for web design.
The contributions of these individuals and entities significantly enhanced our work; however, any errors in fact or analysis remain the responsibility of the authors.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.