The Walton Family Foundation is distributing $500,000 to Little Rock nonprofit organizations based on the results of a poll showing a need for helping students in specific areas, providing tutoring, and supporting parents and guardians.
The poll of 667 residents whose children are educated by the Little Rock School District, charter schools or private schools was conducted between June 22 and July 13, 2020. Slightly more than two thirds of respondents (67.77%) had at least one child enrolled by the LRSD. The poll had a margin of error of plus/minus 3.78%. The survey was conducted by Impact Management Group.
The poll occurred following the spring shutdown of schools statewide due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the survey, 63% of families said they were concerned that students in their household were falling behind without traditional classroom instruction, with 40% saying they were “very concerned” and 23% saying they were “somewhat concerned.” Another 17% said they were “not too concerned,” and 18% said they were “not concerned at all.”
Asked to rank their children’s online instruction from a one (worst) to five (best) when schools closed, 29% answered one or two, 33% answered three, and 36% said four or five. Families with students enrolled in the LRSD were more likely to answer one or two (33%) than families in private (21%) and charter (18%) schools. African American families were more likely to rate their experience a four or five (44%) than white families (27%).
Asked an open-ended question about the biggest obstacle to educational success during the pandemic, 22% offered an answer pertaining to tutoring or one-on-one teaching. Lack of socialization was second at 13%, followed by answers related to a lack of teacher instruction and interaction at 11%.
When respondents were asked if there were a specific subject where they were concerned about their children falling behind, 27% said math and 9% said reading, with an additional 4% saying math and reading. Alone or in conjunction with other subjects, math was cited by 46% of respondents.
Respondents were offered options of programs and asked if they would be helpful. The one with the highest percentage of positive responses was “programs targeted at helping students improve in specific subject areas such as reading and math.” Roughly 83% of respondents said those programs would be helpful, with 55.2% saying they would be “very helpful” and 27.4% saying they would be “somewhat helpful.”
The answer with the second highest percentage of positive responses was “additional learning opportunities such as one-on-one tutoring and study group programs.” Eighty-one percent said those would be helpful, including 54.3% saying they would be very helpful and 26.5% saying they would be somewhat helpful.
“Programs to equip parents and guardians with the tools and training they need to assist their children with online learning” had the third most positive responses, with 77% saying they would be helpful. Of those, 52% said they would be very helpful while 25% said they would be somewhat helpful.
The Walton Family Foundation is using the poll to help it distribute $500,000 through its Community Support Grant Program to address those top three areas, according to a press release from the foundation. As of Sept. 9, the foundation had distributed more than $300,000 to the Central Arkansas Library System and AR Kids Read to support tutoring programs.
CALS is launching the Count UP Tutoring Program through its Children’s Library and Learning Center, where students can connect with tutors and participate in one-on-one sessions with volunteers. AR Kids Read will significantly expand virtual tutoring to Little Rock students.
An additional $200,000 will go to Little Rock nonprofit organizations based on the results of the poll. The deadline for nonprofits to apply is Oct. 7. More information about the Foundation’s Community Support Grant Program can be found here.
Elsewhere in the poll, more than 96% of families said they currently have high-speed internet at home, with 20% of families with household incomes below $25,000 saying they did not. Only 2% said “internet/broadband” was the biggest obstacle to their students’ educational success in response to another open-ended question.
However, when asked an open-ended question about the number one service or resource that could assist their child’s education, “internet” was by far the number one answer at 38%. Impact Management’s Robert Coon said respondents may have been talking about overall student needs for a virtual education rather than a need pertaining to their own family.
On that question, live teacher instruction was second at 19%, followed by re-opening schools at 10%. Better curriculum/platform was next at 7.35%, followed by online/in-home tutoring at 7%.
Meanwhile, more than 90% said they had a computer, tablet or laptop at home that was suitable for online learning. Twenty percent of unemployed respondents said they lacked the devices.
The survey was conducted weeks after the killing of George Floyd on May 29. Asked an open-ended question about their family’s biggest obstacle or problem including things other than education, almost 33% of respondents said race or racism, including 37% of African American families and even 30% of white families. Answers related to personal finances were second at 15%, followed by answers related to social isolation or limitations at 13%. Protecting themselves and others from the coronavirus was next at 7.65%.
Also regarding racial issues, 62% said some students have an advantage because of their race, with 71% of African American respondents and 27% of white respondents offering that answer.
More than 35.5% said they had household incomes above $100,000. Coon said that high percentage reflected the population who answered the poll, but survey findings were consistent across income and racial categories regarding programs that could be provided.
In 2019, the Walton Family Foundation awarded more than $525 million in grants to support initiatives improving K-12 education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta, according to the foundation’s press release.