Study: Only 16% MA high school students prefer remote learning

BROCKTON, Mass. — The majority of Massachusetts high school students surveyed prefer in-person learning to remote or hybrid learning models according to a study by the Barr Foundation and Gallup. The study found just 16% of the 1,000 students who participated in the telephone survey would rather learn from home.

“I wish I could go,” said 17-year-old Nia Alves of Brockton.

“I don’t have that privilege,” she explained.

Brockton Public Schools, a district of roughly 16,000 students, has been remote for most of the school year. On January 27, Brockton Mayor and School Committee Chairman, Robert Sullivan urged Gov. Charlie Baker to reclassify early education and K-12 as a phase one group for COVID-19 vaccinations.

The Barr Foundation-Gallup study findings are based on surveys conducted between November 18 and December 9, 2020, and was carried out in both English and Spanish.

There were large discrepancies discovered between learning arrangements for students surveyed based on household income level.

According to the study, 66% of students with a household income of $120,000 or more were in school districts where hybrid or full-time in-person instruction was being done, compared to just 31% who were full-time remote. 57% of students with household incomes of $60,000 or less were exclusively remote during the time frame studied.

“Sometimes they take it for granted,” said Alves of friends she has in other districts with in-person or hybrid learning models.

The study also found low-income and minority students are more likely to be remote and less likely to have reliable internet access.

Of those surveyed, 77% of White students in Massachusetts schools live in households with what their parents consider reliable broadband connections.

For Black students, the number is just 59%, and 58% for Hispanic households.

“They always get the short end of the stick,” added Alves.

“Even in the pandemic, they’re still getting the short end of the stick.”

Jonathan Rothwell is Principal Economist with Gallup and explains what he believes this study shows.

“I think it provides for further motivation to return to in-person learning,” Rothwell said.

“Obviously there is some local considerations there, and safety considerations that people have to take into account, and not every school administrator, principal, teachers union head feels like they can make this decision to return but I want people to know the student experience and it seems that’s been missing in many of these debates. We’ve heard from teachers union leaders, we’ve heard from politicians (and) policymakers.”

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