Top 5 Findings from the America After 3PM Special Report, Time for a Game-Changing Summer

Summer programs provide critical positive experiences that youth carry with them as they grow. Structured programs offer the chance to foster friendships and connections, develop life skills, be active, and explore different subjects through intellectually engaging projects. For families, summer programs provide peace of mind knowing their child is in a safe and engaging space. However, data finds that access to summer learning is still inaccessible for some families.

Below are the major findings regarding summer experiences in 2019-2020:

  1. Parent satisfaction for summer programs is strong, with participation higher than ever.

Virginia parent satisfaction with their child’s structured summer programs is at 91%, with the percentage of families reporting at least one child is in a summer program climbing 26% points since 2008. 

  1.  Parents want this summer to be different.

With the approach of our second COVID summer, parents are looking for programs focused on recovery and fun, engaging activities. While 72% of parents wanted to make sure their child did not lose academic ground, many parents are prioritizing opportunities for their child to engage in outdoor and screen-free activities, build life skills, and explore different subjects.

  1.  Barriers to access remain high, especially for low-income families
    25% of children not enrolled in a summer program would be enrolled if a program was available.The study also finds high unmet demand nationally, with children in low-income families most likely to be left behind. Cost is the barrier to enrollment 48% of parents cite most often.
  1.  Programs face barriers to operation

Summer programs were hard hit by the pandemic, and 82% of providers are still unsure about their future due to concerns about long-term funding. Other factors providers are concerned about include reduced enrollment, hiring enough staff, addressing learning loss, and having the resources to meet families’ needs. 

  1. Parents are highly in favor of public funding for summer programs.

Support for public funding reaches 89% in Virginia, with parents agreeing funding should be used to make summer programs available to youth in communities with limited access. Across the country, states show bipartisan support for summer learning

To find your state’s dashboard and data breakdown, head to Here you will find Virginia’s metrics to uncover unmet demand, satisfaction rates, enrollment challenges for families, and support for public funding.

With insights into what summer programs looked like throughout the nation in 2019-2020, we can help redefine and restructure the parameters of equitable summer learning in 2021.