America After 3 PM: Special Report on Summer

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 America After 3 PM: Special Report on Summer

Special Report on Summer: Missed Opportunities, Unmet Demand

For many children in America, summer vacation means camp, trips to new or familiar destinations, visits to museums, parks and libraries, and a variety of enriching activities – either with families or as part of a summer learning program. But for millions of others, when schools close for the summer, safe and enriching learning environments are out of reach, replaced by boredom, lost opportunities and risk.

This disparity in summer learning opportunities each summer is a great shame and a significant contributor to the crisis in education in this country. Research spanning 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer.1 More than half of the achievement gap present in ninth grade between lower and higher income youth can be explained by summer learning loss that disproportionately affects low-income children. It is a significant part of the reason that lowincome youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college.2

It’s true that some children and families in America have the luxury of choosing from a variety of summer learning opportunities including summer camps, community-based programs, parks and recreation activities, library reading programs and traditional summer school. Throughout this report, we focus specifically on summer learning programs—safe, structured programs that provide a variety of activities designed to encourage learning and development in the summer months—since high quality summer learning programs are emerging as an important strategy to prevent summer learning loss.3

America After 3PM Special Report on Summer adds a new dimension to the research on summer learning by providing answers to key questions, including:

  • What percentage of America’s children participate in summer learning programs?
  • What percentage of children would likely participate based on parental interest?
  • What percentage of parents support public funding for summer learning programs?

The data for America After 3PM Special Report on Summer were collected in the 2009 America After 3PM study, which surveyed nearly 30,000 households. This report presents general findings and breaks them out by ethnicity and socio-economic status as measured by eligibility for free and reduced price lunch, while also offering data on demand and support for summer learning programs in each state.

America After 3PM Special Report on Summer, sponsored by The Wallace Foundation, offers a snapshot of how children spend their summers and finds that the nation is missing a key opportunity to help millions of children succeed in school. Key findings include:

  • In the United States today, only 25 percent of school-age children (an estimated 14.3 million children) participate in summer learning programs.
  • Based on parent interest in enrolling their child in a summer learning program, 56 percent of all non-participating children (an estimated 24 million children) would likely enroll in summer learning programs.
  • Parents of only one-third of children show no interest in enrolling their children in summer learning programs.
  • Low-income and ethnic minority children are more likely to attend summer learning programs than other children, but the unmet demand among low-income and minority families are also greatest.
  • By an overwhelming margin, parents support public funding for summer learning programs, with the strongest level of support coming from low-income and ethnic minority parents.

Background on America After 3PM Special Report on Summer

The data for America After 3PM Special Report on Summer were gathered through the 2009 America After 3PM study. In 2009, the Afterschool Alliance and JCPenney Afterschool commissioned the most in-depth study ever to examine how America’s kids spend their hours after school. Conducted by RTi, a market research firm, America After 3PM definitively answered questions such as:

  • What are kids doing after school?
  • How many kids are in afterschool programs?
  • How many kids go home alone?
  • What is the demand for afterschool programs?

In addition, the 2009 America After 3PM study gathered answers to key questions regarding how many children participate in summer learning programs, how many more would likely participate, and how many parents support public funding for summer learning programs. In total, nearly 30,000 households were surveyed. The findings from the summer related questions are presented in this report.

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1. Alexander, K. Entwisle, D., and Olson, L. (2007). Lasting consequences of the summer learning gap. American Sociological Review, 72, 167-180.
Cooper, H., Nye, B., Charlton, K., Lindsay, J., & Greathouse, S. (1996). The effects of summer vacation on achievement test scores: A narrative and meta-analytic review. Review of Educational Research, 66, 227- 268.
Downey, D, von Hippel, P., and Broh, B. (2004). Are schools the great equalizer? Cognitive inequality during the summer months and the school year. American Sociological Review, 69, 613-635.
Entwisle, D., and Alexander, K. (1992). Summer setback: Race, poverty, school composition, and mathematics achievement in the first two years of school. American Sociological Review, 57, 72-84.
Heyns, B. (1978). Summer Learning and the Effects of Schooling. New York: Academic Press. White,W. (1906). Reviews before and after vacation. American Education, 185-188

2. Alexander, K. L., Entwise, D. R., & Olson, L. (2007). Lasting Consequences of the Summer Learning Gap. American Sociological Review, 72.

3. Chaplin, D. and Capizzano, J. (2006). Impacts of a Summer Learning Program: A Random Assingment Study of Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL). Urban Institute.