HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Professor of Public Policy, HKS; Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government, FAS


The 2020 Education Next survey reveals a paradox related to what American parents think about the quality of the instruction their children received after schools closed their doors in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The parents of a substantial majority of school-aged children—71%—think their kids learned less than they would have in school. At the same time, parents of 72% of children say they are satisfied with the instruction and activities provided by schools during the closure (see Figure 1). What experiences account for these seemingly contradictory opinions? And how did those experiences vary across social groups and the nation’s district, charter, and private school sectors? Since schools closed, commentators have used a variety of methods to understand the likely implications of this episode for student learning and what it bodes for the future, from analyzing school districts’ remote-learning plans to tracking reports of homeschooling on social media. Yet we lack a thorough and systematic picture of what American families experienced during the pandemic.


Henderson, Michael B., David M. Houston, Paul E. Peterson and Martin R. West. "What American Families Experienced When Covid-19 Closed Their Schools." Education Next 21.1 (Winter 2021): 45-59.