In July 2020, the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools and researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) partnered to conduct a survey of more than 1,100 Los Angeles Unified School District families. The survey was instrumental to our newly published brief, “Listening to Learn: What Los Angeles Families Say They Need During Distance Learning,” which follows our April 2020 brief, “Bridging LA’s Digital Divide: Increasing Access to WiFi and Technology for Low-Income Communities and Communities of Color.” 

Our brief surveyed Black and Latinx families whose children attend 19 historically under-resourced public schools in the Partnership network about the challenges they are facing at home with distance learning. We found:

    • Deficits in technology readiness are exacerbating challenges with distance learning for low-income students and students of color.
    • Students rely on siblings and other family members for support with distance learning.
    • Parents are seeking more support and resources to navigate their children’s distance learning, including increased communication from schools, live instruction and technical support.

“These findings should challenge all of us to spend more time listening to our families and grappling with how we can honor their voices and experiences in the work we do together in service of students,” said Joan Sullivan, Chief Executive Officer of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools. “My hope is that this pandemic can be an inflection point for how we partner with families.” 

“For too long we have overlooked how the digital divide creates opportunity gaps in K-12 education. With students learning from home, this can no longer be ignored. Our findings show that students without appropriate connectivity or devices for distance learning are less motivated and are able to complete fewer assignments than their peers. If schools are expected to contribute to social mobility and create lifelong opportunities for all children, there needs to be a concerted effort at the federal, state and local level to address these disparities.” – Hernan Galperin, Associate Professor, USC Annenberg School for Communication, and one of the study’s lead researchers

“Opportunities to learn and thrive are complex, more so during distance learning,” says Stephen Aguilar, Assistant Professor at the USC Rossier School of Education and one of the study’s lead researchers. “Our findings highlight the fact that we cannot just give families digital products and expect learning to occur. We have to support families by investing in our infrastructure, like making sure that everyone has access to quality high-speed internet.” – Stephen Aguilar, Professor, USC Rossier School of Education

Learn more by reading our full brief in English and Spanish, and sharing widely by downloading our infographic.

And here is what others are saying about the brief:

  • “This study underscores the need for continued focus on closing the digital divide for families of color, as well as significantly increasing support for parents to improve their own digital literacy so that they can help their children learn more effectively at home. We are glad to have extremely useful data that show us what parents expect around teacher feedback, communication, live instruction and technical support as well. Now our job is to ensure that policymakers use these findings to make meaningful changes in how historically underserved communities are supported with distance learning during the pandemic – as well as ensuring continued focus on long-term solutions in bringing sustainable technology and connectivity to our communities.” – Ana Ponce, Executive Director, Great Public Schools Now 
  • “We applaud this study for highlighting what families need to ensure success in a distance learning environment,” says Vanessa Aramayo, executive director, Alliance for a Better Community. “In Los Angeles, too many Latino students are being left behind, and we cannot let the achievement gaps widen during this pandemic and push them even further behind. Public education is one of the most effective tools we have in breaking the cycle of poverty. We all have a shared responsibility to do all we can for our students to succeed and thrive.” – Vanessa Aramayo, Executive Director, Alliance for a Better Community