A Time to Learn, A Time to Grow

California Parents Talk About Summertime And Summer Programs

New Survey Shows California Parents Want Summer Academic and Enrichment Activities but Obstacles Prevent Enrollment in Programs.

Nearly 6 in 10 parents in California (59 percent) either did not enroll their child in a summer program at all or did so for less than half the summer

Sacramento, Calif. -- According to a new survey by Public Agenda, six out of ten (59%) California parents say they either did not enroll at least one school aged child in any summer programs at all in 2009, or did so for less than half of the summer. Moreover, parents who sent their child to an enriching and academic program believe it helped better prepare their child for school.

That’s just one of the many new realities facing California parents based on a new Public Agenda survey, conducted in both English and Spanish, of more than 1,200 California parents with children between the ages of 5 and 15.

Notably, there is a gap between what parents want for their children during the summer and the activities in which their children were able to participate. A majority of parents say that it is important for their children to partake in a variety of activities during the summer, not only spending time with family, but also participating in enriching activities, including academics. Yet, 3 in 10 parents did not enroll their children in any summer program at all and more than half (54%) of them cited lack of affordable programs as a reason.

The lack of affordable summer enrichment programs is especially problematic among low-income, rural, African-American and Latino parents. While 65% of parents in general say they would like to know more about quality, affordable summer program options, 79% of low-income, 74% of African-American and 71% of Latino parents agree that they would be interested in receiving more information regarding local summer programs in their communities.

Summer programs are especially important because 87% of parents who did send their children to summer programs that included academic and enrichment activities agreed that the programs helped prepare their children for the school year, with 45% “strongly agreeing.” Yet Jon Rochkind, Director of Research at Public Agenda noted, “Our study indicated that African-American and Latino families, along with low-income and parents living in rural areas, believe they are less likely to have access to quality summer programs. And, Latino parents, even more than white parents, were concerned that their children’s summer programs include some academics so that their kids don’t backslide over summer.”

Lois Salisbury, Director of the Children, Families and Communities program at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, which funded the survey, said, “Overall, this study shows that California’s parents want what research tells us children need. These findings inform the Packard Foundation’s recent focus on summer enrichment as a natural extension of California’s unique school based after-school programs.”

The survey findings will be released on March 11 at the California Legislative Task Force on Summer and Intersession Enrichment hearing, taking place in the Capitol in Sacramento. Participants will include the Chair of the Committee, Senator Mark DeSaulnier of California’s Seventh State Senate District; Jon Rochkind of Public Agenda; and Lois Salisbury of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

The State Legislative Task Force on Summer and Intersession Enrichment was created last year after the passing of Assembly Concurrent Resolution 134, authored by California Senator Mark DeSaulnier and sponsored by the Partnership for Children and Youth. The Task Force was created to address the issue of building awareness about the gap in structured summer learning opportunities for low-income children and is currently involved in producing recommendations for the Governor and the Legislature regarding the state’s role in addressing the education and health needs of California children in the summer.


"A Time to Learn, A Time to Grow" is based on a survey including a representative sample of 1,204 California residents who are parents of children aged 5 to 15. Interviews were conducted from September 29 to October 14, 2009, and respondents had a choice of completing the interview in English or Spanish. The margin of error for the study is plus or minus 2.82 percentage points, however, it is higher when comparing subgroups or question items that were not asked of all respondents. The survey was preceded by four focus groups conducted in Fresno, Oakland, Los Angeles and San Jose, California.

Click here to see the survey questions and answers, which are in a separate document from the pdf of the findings of our research.

More From Public Agenda On Education, Children And Families

Education and other issues affecting children and families are a major focus for Public Agenda's researchers and our public engagement team. Here are a few other studies and papers which might be of interest to policymakers and others considering the issues examined in and raised by "A Time To Learn, A Time To Grow."

All Work and No Play? Listening to What Kids and Parents Really Want from Out-of-School Time

A Lot Easier Said Than Done: Parents Talk About Raising Children in Today's America

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Are We Beginning To See The Light? Public And Parents Buy Into The Need To Ramp Up Math And Science Education But Most Still Think Their Local Schools Are Doing Fine

A Matter of Trust: Ten Key Insights From Recent Public Opinion Research on Attitudes About Education Among Hispanic Parents, Students and Young Adults

Can I Get A Little Advice Here? How An Overstretched High School Guidance System Is Undermining Students' College Aspirations

With Their Whole Lives Ahead Of Them

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About Public Agenda

Founded in 1975 by social scientist and author Daniel Yankelovich and former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, Public Agenda works to help the nation’s leaders better understand the public’s point of view and to help average citizens better understand critical policy issues. Our in-depth research on how citizens think about policy has won praise for its credibility and fairness from elected officials of both political parties and from experts and decision-makers across the political spectrum. Our citizen education materials and award-winning web site offer unbiased information about the challenges the country faces. Recognized by Library Journal as one of the Web’s best resources, we provide comprehensive information on a wide range of policy issues.

About The David And Lucile Packard Foundation

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation is a private family foundation created in 1964 by David Packard (1912–1996), cofounder of the Hewlett-Packard Company, and Lucile Salter Packard (1914–1987). The Foundation provides grants to nonprofit organizations in the following program areas: Conservation and Science; Population and Reproductive Health; and Children, Families and Communities.

Foundation grantmaking includes support for a wide variety of activities including direct services, research and policy development, and public information and education. The Foundation does not make grants intended to influence legislation or support candidates for political office.

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Download the PDF of the Report

A Time to Learn, A Time to Grow

California Parents Talk About Summertime And Summer Programs

Media Type: PDF

A Public Agenda survey of over 1,200 parents in California, with interviews conducted in English and Spanish, finds a gap between what parents want for their children during the summer and the activities in which their children were able to participate.


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