When New Jersey schools were thrown into online classes in the spring due to the coronavirus pandemic, parents couldn't do much more than give schools the benefit of the doubt when it came to the education they were offering and how well the system was actually working.

But survey findings suggest that over the summer, New Jersey parents raised the bar for what's expected of remote learning in the 2020-2021 academic year.

"Parents are going to show up differently this fall," said Erica Gray, of the national nonprofit Learning Heroes, which led research exploring how New Jersey parents and guardians think and feel about their children's education in the COVID-19 era.

"We now know that they want to build stronger relationships with teachers and with their school, so this is really an opportunity to advocate to make that happen," Gray said during a webinar about the research, hosted by We Raise New Jersey and the New Jersey Parent Teacher Association.

In the surveys and focus groups conducted by Edge Research, 7 in 10 parents and guardians said they're more engaged now than ever before in their child's day-to-day education because of remote learning. More than 60% have a better understanding of what their child is expected to learn to be ready for the next grade.

But respondents apparently want to have an even better handle on what's happening online this fall. Nearly 90% of respondents said they expect online access to assignments and materials themselves, and expect to see data about how their child is doing academically in the fall.

More than half of respondents said it's important for students to take a "statewide test" in the spring to make sure they're meeting expectations in reading and in math.

According to the survey's findings, just 41% of parents and guardians in the Garden State believe their child in the spring learned just as much on a device at home as they have would have in-person at school. Nearly 70% believe their child's grade last spring reflected completion of assignments, rather than content mastery.

Regarding a return to in-person learning, parents' top concern is whether a safe environment can be provided, the survey found. Many parents and guardians also worry about their child missing out on important social interactions at school or with friends.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com

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