First Bell

Parents' plans to vaccinate kids, learning loss in special education, and distance learning's impact on Black parents.

Topics: Pandemic Leadership, Special Education

Majority of Parents Plan to Vaccinate Kids

Back in May, 61 percent of parents planned to vaccinate all of their children as soon as vaccines are approved for use, according to a COVID Collaborative survey. However, 27 percent said they would not vaccinate any of their children, and 12 percent were undecided. Vaccines have been approved for use in children age 12 and up since mid-May.

  • Intent varied among parents across racial and ethnic lines, with Asian American and Pacific Islander parents being the most likely to vaccinate their children (77 percent) and Black parents being the least likely (55 percent).
  • Some 65 percent of parents of children ages 6 to 17 planned to vaccinate, but only 56 percent of parents of children under 6 did.
  • Parents least likely to say they will get their children vaccinated were those who live in small towns and rural areas (42 percent).

Nearly 3 in 5 (59 percent) parents supported requiring students to get vaccinated to attend school in person. “Parents want to keep their children safe and in school,” says John Bridgeland, CEO of the COVID Collaborative. “This survey provides insights to increase parent confidence in vaccination, which will enable children to be safe for in-​person learning, on playgrounds, and for other activities that help them grow and thrive.”

The endorsement or recommendation of a child’s pediatrician is the most influential factor in getting the vaccine-reluctant to immunize, 83 percent of parents said. Unfortunately, health care visits among 7- to 17-year-olds during the 2020–2021 school year dropped 71 percent due to COVID-19 restrictions, Learning First Alliance’s Power to Protect project reports, resulting in more children skipping vaccinations of all kinds.

Two-fifths (40 percent) of parents said that their child missed at least one routine immunization during the year, leaving an estimated 1 in 5 children nationwide vulnerable to measles, mumps, chickenpox, meningitis, whooping cough, and other diseases—as well as potentially jeopardizing their eligibility to attend school this year.

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Special Ed Students Experience Greater Learning Loss

Students who receive special education services often achieve more academic growth during a school year than their typically abled peers, according to a new report from NWEA’s Center for Student and School Progress, but they are at substantially higher risk of losing ground during summer break.

Measuring how far ahead or behind grade level each student is using increments called Rasch Units or RIT points, the study found that students with disabilities lose 1.2 to 2.1 RITs per month in the summer, compared with 0.4- to 0.8-RIT decreases for nondisabled students. Researchers Elizabeth Barker and Angela Johnson also found that students with disabilities start kindergarten at roughly the national mean but fall behind over the course of the year—a gap that tends to widen through the fourth grade.

To address these problems, the study authors and the National Center for Learning Disabilities recommend the following:

  • High-quality, accessible, and inclusive academic instruction that includes a quality curriculum, tutoring, and multiple tiers of data-driven support;
  • Inclusive and culturally responsive social-emotional learning featuring ongoing professional development, community mental health supports, and restorative approaches to discipline;
  • Effective progress monitoring and accurate evaluations for specialized instruction through expanded capacity for data; and
  • Meaningful family support and engagement through expanded and inclusive communication.

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Black Parents Say Educational Experience Improved With Distance Learning

A new Speak Up survey of 500 parents with students in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) found that many Black parents feel their children’s educational experience improved during the COVID-19 pandemic. Distance learning helped reduce bullying, improved teacher responsiveness, and more.

The survey found:

  • 40 percent of Black parents reported their child had been bullied when regular classes were in session; during distance learning, that percentage fell to 6%.
  • 43 percent of Black parents are reluctant to send their children back to in-person classes, reporting concerns about bullying, racism, and low academic standards.
  • 34 percent of Black parents said their children got better support from their teachers during distance learning.
  • 27 percent of Black parents said their child’s behavior improved during the pandemic.

In focus groups, Black parents described a system that treats them and their children with indifference or hostility. Nearly 60 percent of Black parents agreed with the statement that LAUSD “does not provide Black children with the same academic opportunities as white children.”

LAUSD is making it a priority for black students and families to feel “safe, welcomed, and supported on campus,” school board President Kelly Gonez said. “Even a single student who is bullied or is racist at LA Unified is unacceptable.”

Most Principals Would Host Mobile Vaccination

According to a report released in June by the CDC Foundation, the overwhelming majority of principals (89 percent) reported that they had already received a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of April or planned to as soon as it became available. More than two-thirds (70 percent) indicated they would be comfortable with children attending in-person classes once most of their district’s teachers and staff are vaccinated.

Looking forward, 73 percent of principals said they would “likely” permit mobile vaccination units on school grounds to aid in the distribution of coronavirus vaccines, and 85 percent would support local health departments or community organizations testing staff and students regularly for COVID-19. Other opportunities for principals to join the push for immunization include:

  • Tailoring school communications and education to vaccine-hesitant sub­populations of parents, teachers, and staff, taking local contexts and socio-​​demographic factors into consideration;
  • Continuing efforts to get all teachers and staff vaccinated into the 2021–2022 school year;
  • Fighting vaccine misinformation to overcome perceived barriers to getting vaccinated; and
  • Modeling prevention strategies to address the fact that some teachers, staff, and students might not be vaccinated against COVID-19 and that some students are not yet eligible for a vaccine.

To access the full report, visit