"The New High School Normal" Includes Online Learning and a Day Off for Civic Engagement

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Shaped by 2020: New survey from Connections Academy and Pearson reveals parent and teen attitudes about the future of high school, college, career

This survey underscores what many of us witness every day: not only are these young people resilient, 2020 has changed them -- what they rally behind, what they want to study, the careers they'll choose, and even how they want to work,

According to a new public survey, COVID-19 and recent social justice issues have spurred many American teenagers to re-evaluate their future plans, align around things they care about, and embrace online learning. The New High School Normal, a study conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Connections Academy and Pearson, asked 2,000 parents and their high school-aged children how they think world events are changing education and their lives.

Teens report that the issue they care about the most right now is racism with 43% of high school students voicing concern for the issue, followed by education (30%), climate change (29%) and gun control (23%). Issues of racism and recent social justice protests have also influenced teens' academic interests, with nearly 30% of teens saying that social justice issues like Black Lives Matter have influenced what they want to study in college; 31% reported that social justice issues have influenced their career aspirations.

In addition, ¾ of high schoolers believe civics classes should do more to highlight social and political issues and almost 7 in 10 believe history textbooks need to be updated to reflect the social and racial issues in the U.S. today.

When it comes to their parents, 55% believe schools should give students a day off from high school for civic activity like attending a political rally or marching or protesting for a cause. The majority, 73%, of parents surveyed agree that students today are more politically active than when they were young.

“For those of us in education, it's imperative that we listen to the voices of learners who will lead us into the next generation,” said Mickey Revenaugh, co-founder of Connections Academy. "This survey underscores what many of us witness every day: not only are these young people resilient, 2020 has changed them -- what they rally behind, what they want to study, the careers they'll choose, and even how they want to work. Twenty-five percent of teens said they would only consider jobs that would allow remote or online work. These are indicators we really look at to develop better education experiences for learners today and tomorrow."

When it comes to the pandemic's lasting impact, online learning is here to stay as most students (56%) and parents (74%) agree that the future of high school will include a mix of both online and in-person education. Forty-five percent of parents agree that online learning is the right fit for their teen until a vaccine is available, but 57% of parents polled agree that, “even after the pandemic ends, I plan on keeping my children in a remote / online learning program.”

These sentiments may be driven by outcomes as 81% of both parents and students signaled academic success online. Forty-three percent of students reported that they performed "as well" online and 38% said they performed "better" online. Sixteen percent expressed that they had struggled to perform academically online.

Revenaugh concluded, "the pandemic also showed us that access to technology is still a critical issue that our nation has to address in order for online learning to really deliver on its promise of equity. Will a full-time online school be for every student? Probably not, but for many it is, and will be, the perfect school choice."

Other findings from the New High School Normal survey include:

  • The pandemic has sparked an interest in healthcare careers with 24% of teens saying that they are, "now considering a career in healthcare" as a result of COVID-19, while 32% are reconsidering careers overall.
  • Teens value online learning's flexibility. Survey results around online learning's flexibility are in line with what Connections Academy has seen with its online learning program for the past 20 years: Students surveyed enjoy the option to learn wherever they want (53%) and at their own pace (50%). Forty-one percent enjoy being able to work during non-traditional school hours, whenever they want. Thirty-three percent of students surveyed ranked "socializing with my friends" as a challenge with the online learning they experienced. Cyberbullying was among the least areas of concern with 8% citing it as a challenge.
  • Teens are really self-sufficient with online learning. Eighty-one percent of parents report their high-schooler has been self-sufficient with online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Social media will be a useful tool in school. Sixty-eight percent of students and 65% of their parents believe that social media will be a useful tool and part of the new high school normal.

The Connections Academy survey was conducted in September 2020 by OnePoll. The survey was conducted online, to MRS and ESOMAR guidelines. All respondents were double opted in to respond to market research surveys. The sample was recruited from a panel of adults representing the U.S. population. The total sample of 2,000 respondents gives a topline Margin of Error of 2.2% at 95% confidence. OnePoll is a member of ESOMAR and employs staff who are members of the MRS and AAPOR.

About Connections Academy
Connections Academy is a leading provider of high-quality virtual schooling for students in grades K through 12. Connections Academy delivers superior, personalized education for students, with the freedom and flexibility to experience the Connections Academy online learning community from anywhere. The combination of certified teachers, an award-winning curriculum, technology tools, and community experiences creates a supportive and successful online learning opportunity for families and children who want an individualized approach to education. Connections Academy-supported schools offer grades K through 12, though some public school programs do not offer all grades. For more information, call 1-800-382-6010 or visit https://www.ConnectionsAcademy.com. Connections Academy is part of the global learning company Pearson.

About Pearson
We are the world’s learning company with more than 22,500 employees operating in 70 countries. We provide content, assessment and digital services to learners, educational institutions, employers, governments and other partners globally. We are committed to helping equip learners with the skills they need to enhance their employability prospects and to succeed in the changing world of work. We believe that wherever learning flourishes so do people. Visit http://www.pearson.com.

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