By Will Huntsberry, Voice of San Diego on April 9, 2020

A new survey this week tells us something we already knew: The vast majority of parents feel completely unequipped to guide their children’s education.

In San Diego, 71 percent of parents reported not having the resources or supplies to keep their children on track, according to a survey by the Education Trust – West.

Here are some of the other interesting results from San Diego, which track closely with the statewide results. (In some cases, where I exclude groups below, it is because there was no meaningful difference among subgroups or because the data wasn’t available.)

Reported receiving little to no information about resources from their school district:

Overall: 21%

Latino: 25%

White: 16%

Have been contacted by their child’s teacher:

Overall: 46%

Latino: 45%

White: 53%

Low-income: 52%

Not low-income: 44%

Interesting to note here that more low-income families were contacted than non low-income families. That’s a good sign. But the trend cuts in the opposite direction regarding white and Latino students. Obviously, overall most parents seem to be in the dark.

Lack sufficient devices at home to access online learning:

Overall: 61%

Latino: 83%

White: 23%

Low-income: 72%

Not low-income: 39%

These numbers are huge and far greater than what San Diego Unified predicted. San Diego Unified officials have predicted that 40 percent of their students need a device to be able to do online learning at home.

Reported that district is providing materials for English-learners:

Overall: 29%

This is a scary statistic for students who are at greater risk of falling behind than most.

Concerned that their children will fall behind academically:

Overall: 86%

Parents experiencing higher levels of stress:

Overall: 77%

None of these results is particularly surprising (except, maybe, just how few students have a device at home to learn on) but together they seem to point toward a crisis in education that is very different than your average school crisis. This one happens inside homes, where parents must each experience it individually.

Six superintendents from around the county talked about the challenge Thursday, in a teleconference-style town hall convened by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber. But it’s doubtful that any parent who tuned in felt significant relief from their major concerns is right around the corner.

There is one problem, however, that schools do seem able to actively address: internet connectivity.

San Diego Unified plans to hand out 40,000 devices over three weeks. Superintendent Cindy Marten told those on the call that her district had already handed out 10,000 in just three days, since the beginning of the district’s “soft launch” into online learning.

Most other superintendents on the call – they represented the San Diego County Office of Education, Sweetwater Union, Chula Vista Elementary, La Mesa-Spring Valley and Lemon Grove – also said they have plans to get all students the devices and internet they need.

But the question of ensuring that students actually get on the computers and do school work that expands their minds and keeps them productively active – presumably the major source of stress and anxiety among parents – was not addressed.

The superintendents talked a good game about the academic and social-emotional resources that will be available to students and parents. (San Diego Unified has worked furiously to create online curriculums and learning plans for students. The superintendent of Lemon Grove said they are so good she’s using them for her students.) In the coming weeks, the true value of those resources will become more apparent. It is hard to imagine a world where it is not directly tied to parents’ ability to manage and guide their children through an online world of education.

As Weber said on the call: The current situation is likely exacerbating an achievement gap that already ensured some children in California were more likely to succeed in others.

She said she plans to push for a “restorative” plan – that might include Saturday school or expanded summer school and definitely would require more money from the state – to help catch students up, who are falling behind in this time.