Summer School Is Growing With Little Help From Federal Funds, Survey Finds

Staff Writer

Summer school providers are more likely to be open and operating in-person this summer, a new survey found. But few are accessing the federal relief funding that was intended to support these types of efforts.

As many as 90 percent of summer school program providers — both school districts and community-based organizations — say they plan to offer summer school this year, according to an online survey conducted in March and April by Edge Research for the nonprofit advocacy organization Afterschool Alliance.

And about a third of the 948 participating providers say they’re expanding their program to serve more children compared to last year.

This is encouraging news as experts and educators point to summer school as a key window of time to address the learning students lost during the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, summer interventions were often set up only to target a select few students who needed remediation.

“Afterschool and summer learning programs keep kids safe, inspire them to learn, and provide working parents with peace of mind,” said Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant in a statement. “Our kids need these programs now more than ever as they try to manage and recover from the pandemic.”

School district officials have told EdWeek Market Brief that they plan to invest heavily in summer school programs, including with COVID relief funding.

District and school leaders listed summer learning as a top priority for stimulus money, second to social and emotional support, in a nationally representative survey conducted by EdWeek Research Center last fall.

However, Edge Research found that only one in five summer program providers say they’ve received COVID relief funds, whether education-specific funds that flow to schools or other funds that local elected officials can direct to such programs.

Programs that don’t have stimulus funding are less likely to expand their programs and are more likely to be concerned about their ability to hire enough staff for the summer, the survey found.

“Federal COVID relief funds are helping, but not nearly enough programs have been able to access those funds,” Grant said. “Getting funds to these programs should be a priority for all education and civic leaders so they can improve staff pay and benefits and provide more support for students.”

Other takeaways from the Edge Research survey include:

  • A majority of summer school providers (56 percent) report having conversations with their local district or schools about how best to support students’ learning this summer. But 33 percent say they have not.
  • 31 percent of providers say they will place a greater emphasis on ensuring a balance of academic and enrichment activities for students this summer than in the past.
  • The majority of providers (66 percent) are concerned about being able to hire enough staff for the summer. The next most common concern is being able to meet demand (41 percent).

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Image from Getty

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