Educators Worried about Staffing and Engagement: Summer 2021 Survey Results and Tips

By: | 04/08/2021
Categories: Distance Learning, Leadership

This February and March, the Curriculum Associates Research team surveyed a random sample of our education partners to better understand schools’ and districts’ plans for summer programs to address unfinished learning. Ultimately, a total of 377 administrators and 3,457 teachers participated in our surveys, answering questions such as, “Will your school or district offer a summer learning program this year?” and “How many weeks will your summer program run?”

Our biggest finding? Educators are uncertain. Though 73 percent of administrators surveyed said their school or district would offer a summer learning program this year, they also said they were unclear about specifics like duration, location, and participation.

Below, we share additional insight from our February and March surveys, as well as resources Curriculum Associates has gathered that will hopefully help assuage educators’ worries and help them prepare for summer 2021.

Educators’ Thoughts about Summer 2021


When we asked administrators in February, “What percentage of your students are likely to be in summer school this year?” only 60 percent felt they could offer an estimate. Of those who could provide an estimate, most said they expected 27 percent of their students to enroll in summer school. When we asked the same question in March, we got a similar answer: Most educators thought 29 percent of their students would take part in summer school. It’s also worth noting that 80 percent of administrators felt like they could answer this question in March.

Need help planning your summer learning programs?

Our Summer Learning with i-Ready hub has resources to help you envision and organize your summer learning program. Interested in how i-Ready can help you make the most out of every instructional minute? That information’s there, too.



In a typical summer, where summer school would take place is a given: inside school buildings. This February, most administrators said they didn’t know if summer school would be in school buildings, online, or some combination of the two. However, by March, most administrators (i.e., 60 percent) said they expected students to be back in school buildings for most summer instruction.


If we don’t know where summer school will take place, maybe we can nail down how long it will be—again, no, we can’t. Among the 240 administrators who could speak to their summer plans in February, the most frequent response was, “I don’t know at this time.” However, in March three-quarters of administrators said their summer learning programs would last four to six weeks.

Student Body

In the February survey, administrators were asked to provide their top two criteria for selecting students to enroll in summer schools. “I don’t know at this time” was, once again, the top response. However, the next most popular answer was “grade level most impacted by unfinished learning” (i.e., 29 percent) followed closely by “extent of unfinished learning from 2020–2021 school year” (i.e., 28 percent).

Administrators’ Likely Criteria for Summer-School Enrollment—February Survey

Graph showing administrators' likely criteria for summer-school enrollment.

In the March survey, we gave administrators additional options, and the number of educators who felt they could answer was much improved. In February, 41 percent of administrators said, “I don’t know at this time,” but in March, that number went down to 13 percent. Also, in the March survey, administrators said that students who had failing grades or needed credits would be their top criterium followed by grade levels most impacted.

In both survey groups, administrators who said that grade level would be a factor in deciding who attends summer school also largely agreed that students in earlier grades were more likely to be enrolled in summer school than older students. This may be because remote learning has been notoriously difficult for younger students.

10 Questions to Help You Plan Your Summer Learning Program

Top Concerns for Administrators

Among administrators, keeping students engaged in instruction topped the list of concerns for summer learning in both February and March. In February, the number two and three concerns were determining what skills to teach and recruiting the right and sufficient number of staff, respectively. By March, the number two and three top concerns had switched places: Administrators were now more concerned about staffing than deciding what to teach. Putting rank aside, both sets of survey results make it very clear that engagement, staffing, and determining what to teach are the things keeping administrators up at night.

Administrators’ Top Concerns for Summer School—February Survey

Graph showing administrators top concerns for summer school.

Teachers’ Priorities and Desired Resources

Approximately half of the teachers surveyed in both February and March said that this summer they would like their students to focus on practicing skills they learned in the 2020–2021 school year to maintain fluency. As for teachers’ desired resources, they remained consistent in emphasizing that summer learning should be interesting and fun. In both survey sets, teachers said student engagement materials and games would be most helpful for supporting summer learning.

Teachers’ Desired Resources for Summer Learning—March Survey

Graph showing teachers' most desired resources for summer learning success.

How We Can Help

While we can’t convince your favorite, most effective teachers to swap their beach chairs for desk chairs this July, we can help you identify high-impact skills for students to work on in summer school and provide curriculum solutions that fit your instructional needs.

Identify Prerequisite Skills

Whether students are learning in person, online, or some mix of the two, i-Ready can help with engagement and continued learning. The i-Ready Prerequisites report can identify the most important skills for students to tackle this summer, and i-Ready Personalized Instruction can make assigning the right lessons the easiest thing about summer 2021. Visit our Summer Learning with i-Ready hub for all the details.

Practical Tips and Ongoing Insight from Our Blog

Whether you’re looking for ideas that promote students engagement, tools that up equity and class discussions, or info about choosing culturally responsive texts for your summer reading lists, the Curriculum Associates blog has you covered.

Grants and Funding Information and Support

The new or additional resources your students are likely to need this summer probably weren’t in your original budget for summer school. Thankfully, the latest round of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding allocated $125.8 billion—that’s billion with a b!—to states and districts.

This round comes with a new requirement: At least 20 percent of that funding must be used to address learning loss.

Visit our Grants and Funding Center, or check out this blog post to learn more about using ESSER funding to measure and address learning loss.

Together, We’ve Got This

Getting students back on track academically will take deliberate, thoughtful intervention. No matter what shape your summer learning program takes, we’re here to help you find the right program structure and resources to support both teachers and students.

Need help planning your district's or school's summer learning program?

Join Curriculum Associates for sessions on How to Help Address Disruptions to Teaching and Learning through Federal Funding!

Summer-Learning Successes with i-Ready and Other Curriculum Associates Instructional Options

April 28, 2021 | 1:00–2:00 PM ET

Understanding Student Needs: Using ESSER Funding to Address Unfinished Learning

May 5, 2021 | 1:00–2:00 PM ET

Teacher and students sitting on the floor.

Grants and Funding Hub

Curriculum Associates’ grants and funding team has assembled resources to help educators and administrators make sense of new federal funding sources, plan for summer school, and understand how our programs meet funding requirements. 

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