School Districts Have Expanded Their Nonacademic Services for 2021–2022, While Academic Offerings Remain Much the Same

Selected Findings from the Third American School District Panel Survey

by Heather L. Schwartz, Melissa Kay Diliberti

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School districts in the United States are responding to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in significantly different ways. The authors of this report fielded the third American School District Panel (ASDP) survey in June 2021 to discover what changes districts are making to their academic and nonacademic offerings for the upcoming 2021–2022 school year, and whether parental demand has played any role in prompting districts to make these changes.

In this report, the authors summarize key ASDP findings based on the responses of 292 district leaders, after weighting their responses to make them nationally representative. Survey results suggest that while public schools are expanding their nonacademic offerings, much of their academic offerings for 2021–2022 remain the same. The authors examine differences between pre-pandemic and 2021–2022 offerings among district subgroups in the areas of summer programming, tutoring, grade retention practices, technology-related services, student health and weekend meals, academic recovery measures, and scheduling.

The authors also found that most district leaders did not perceive a strong parental demand for changes to their children's schooling; however, there were some notable exceptions among leaders of urban, suburban, and majority–students of color districts, even though the correlation between perceived demand and district provision is currently weak. Parents' demands may still change public education in the long run, but the authors did not find evidence for this thus far.

Key Findings

Districts have expanded services for 2021–2022

  • Nine out of ten district leaders said their district offered summer programming in 2021.
  • Seven out of ten districts will offer personal computing devices to K–5 students, and eight in ten will do so for students in grades 6–12. Technology services is the largest growth area for districts among the wide range of services covered in the survey.
  • Seven out of ten districts will provide mental health programming for students. Five out of ten were already doing this pre-pandemic, while two in ten are newly offering this service.
  • One-quarter of districts allowed families to choose a "do over" year for 2021–2022.
  • A little more than eight out of ten districts will offer tutoring. Seven out of ten were already doing this pre-pandemic, and one in ten are newly offering it.
  • The most substantive academic change was that one-quarter of districts have altered their 2021–2022 school schedule in a way that could increase time for academic instruction.

Districts do not perceive strong parental demand for changes to schooling

  • However, as many as four to five out of ten leaders from three types of districts (urban, suburban, and majority students of color) said parents have "strongly demanded" social and emotional learning, more teacher-parent communication, or a fully remote schooling option.

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The research described in this report was conducted by RAND Education and Labor and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. For this document, different permissions for re-use apply. Please refer to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation section on our permissions page.

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