NCES Survey Examines Public School Summer and After-School Academic Programs

According to data released by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the vast majority of public schools offer summer and after-school programs, many with an academic focus, taught by full-time teachers, and most at no cost to families, but overall participation is low.

The experimental data was collected from 1,442 K–12 schools in every state and the District of Columbia in September 2023, based on the year's summer and after-school programs, and compiled into a "School Pulse Panel" report.

Key findings on summer programs showed that:

  • Eighty-two percent of schools offered some kind of program, with 78% of those being academically focused, including summer school, learning and enrichment, bridge, and other programs.
  • Overall, 15% of all public school students took part in summer programs, and of that number, a higher percentage were students of color (SOC) (19%) in schools and in cities (18%) with large SOC populations compared to schools with smaller SOC populations and located in rural areas.
  • Of schools offering academically focused summer school, 90% did so at no cost to families, and a third or more financed their programs with public funds. Also, most summer school programs (88%) met four or more days a week and were taught by full time teachers (90%).

Key findings for after-school programs for the 2023-24 school year show that:

  • They are offered by 87% of public schools, with 64% being academically focused.
  • Overall, 13% of all public school students are expected to participate this year.
  • As with summer school, SOC in cities are expected to have a higher percentage of attendance than their rural counterparts in schools with lower SOC.
  • Most after-school programs (92%) are being offered at no cost to families, are financed by public funds, meet four or more days per week (45% for academic assistance or enrichment), and are taught by full-time teachers (85%).

The data suggest that opportunity and cost are not significant factors in whether students participate, as about 75% of schools said they were able to provide these programs for students who wanted or needed them.

"The new data tell an important story about the additional opportunities available to help students beyond the school day, especially at a time when academic recovery from the pandemic remains a top concern," said NCES Commissioner Peggy G. Carr. "We are grateful to public school leaders that allow NCES to provide timely insights in the availability of summer and after-school opportunities."

Visit this School Pulse Panel page to view the findings and download the survey questions and data.

About the Author

Kate Lucariello is a former newspaper editor, EAST Lab high school teacher and college English teacher.