While parents are mostly satisfied by Mass. schools, many fear mental health challenges, violence

In a new poll released Wednesday, most Massachusetts parents surveyed said their children are performing at grade level and that they’re at least somewhat satisfied with their child’s school.

But by a near majority, parents also said they’re concerned about their child’s mental health, and many have concerns about safety in schools.

The mixed response to the poll — conducted by the MassINC Polling Group and backed by The Education Trust — varied on the basis of respondents’ race and income. And it adds color to the picture of public schools in recovery after the pandemic and remote learning.

The good news — as relayed to pollsters by over 1,500 parents of K-12 students — is that over three-quarters of respondents gave their child’s school a letter grade of A or B.

More than three-quarters of respondents also say their child is “adequately academically prepared for the next school year” and 87% say they’re "very satisfied" or "somewhat satisfied" with the quality of education their children are receiving.

Roughly three out of four parents told pollsters that their child is performing at or above grade level, even after pandemic-related disruptions.

That perspective seems to fly in the face of recent findings by the Center for Education Policy Research, which found that Massachusetts students lost about seven months of learning in math, and four months in English, from 2019 to 2022.

Even the poll’s bright spots include some variability: Black and Latino parents gave their children’s schools a grade of C or lower at rates exceeding the overall average.

Non-academic considerations may begin to explain those gaps. About 1 in 5 Black and Latino respondents said they felt their child was “not too safe” or “not safe at all” from violence in school, compared to 13% among all respondents.

(Courtesy MassINC Polling Group and The Education Trust)
(Courtesy MassINC Polling Group and The Education Trust)

Parent Richard Carter of Taunton, one of the survey respondents, said he was focused on academics and extracurricular offerings.

But Carter said his daughter, a sixth grader in the Taunton Public Schools, reports school-based behavioral incidents "almost daily."

"We try to explain to her why [classmates] behave that way [and] why she shouldn't," Carter said. "But it's there — and as a society we need to address it."

About a fifth of parents earning $50,000 a year or less also reported some concerns about safety. And a majority of those low-income parents were at least somewhat concerned about their child’s mental and emotional health.

Black and Latino parents were also more likely to report that a police presence in schools would make their child feel less safe, at 15% and 10% respectively.

Genesis Carela, state policy associate for the Education Trust, said the results — especially the race and income disparities — were “troubling and disheartening.”

“It’s important, now more than ever, that Massachusetts’ leaders prioritize providing significant funding increases for our education system,” Carela said. She stressed in particular providing adequate supports and additional resources to help students feel safe and “thrive” in school.

The release of the poll results coincides with a panel discussion on Wednesday morning at Suffolk University, co-hosted by MassINC and The Education Trust. It will feature a conversation with policymakers and parents, including Carter, entitled "The State of Education in the Commonwealth: A Community Perspective."


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Max Larkin Reporter, Education
Max Larkin was an education reporter for WBUR.



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