COVID-19 Impact on Education
Preschoolers Fare Worse Than Kindergarteners in School Closures
- By Dian Schaffhauser
educational experience of kindergarteners was dramatically different
from the one received by preschoolers after the March 2020 school
shutdown took place. While the majority of preschoolers ages three to
five listened to stories, did learning apps or games or performed
physical activities "less than once a week," according to a
the opposite was true for kindergartners, most of whom did the same
every day or "several times each week."
parents said their preschoolers did receive some remote educational
support services when preschool classrooms closed, but support often
was minimal. Within two months less than half of preschool children
continued to receive remote learning support from their programs. The
sudden disappearance of learning support, the researchers estimated,
would result in the loss of two to four months of classroom learning
time, as well as declines in some parent-child activities, which
could worsen the learning loss.
survey was undertaken by the National
Institute for Early Education Research
among a nationally representative sample of 1,001 parents of children
age three to five. The online survey was conducted between May 22 and
June 5, 2020. The results on educational experiences were based on 54
children in kindergarten and 427 children in preschool. Housed at the
Rutgers Graduate School of Education, NIEER supports early childhood
education policy and practice through independent, objective
latest survey asked a series of questions to measure the extent to
which parents were engaged in home learning activities in the
previous week with their preschool-age children. About four in five
parents said they'd read to their child three or more times in the
past week. Three in five reported singing songs and teaching letters,
words or numbers three or more times in that same period. A third (37
percent) said they'd worked on arts and crafts with the child three
or more times. And nearly half (47 percent) reported telling stories
three or more times. According to a
report on the results,
parents rarely said they had "never" engaged in those kinds
were asked how many minutes on the previous day their child had
engaged in various activities. The kids spent about one and a half
hours per day on each of the following activities:
indoors (97 minutes);
outdoors (88 minutes); and
TV or video (93 minutes).
read for about 31 minutes and listened to or played music about 28
time allocations varied by child and family characteristics. For
example, White children spent more time playing indoors compared to
Black and Hispanic children. They spent more time playing outdoors
compared to Black children, while Black children spent more time
reading ebooks and using learning programs or apps than did White or
parents nor preschools were prepared for the sudden transition forced
on us by the pandemic," said Steve Barnett, NIEER's senior
co-director and a study author, in a statement. "Perhaps 10
percent of preschool children received a robust replacement for
in-person preschool attendance."
co-author Kwanghee Jung, associate director for data management and
statistics at NIEER, pointed out that the slide could have been
predicted, due to parental stresses from the pandemic shutdown,
including working from home, travel restrictions, lost income and
difficulties providing for basic needs. The pressures have made it
difficult for parents to continue their usual home supports for young
children's learning much less expand their efforts to replace
preschool classroom activities, she noted.
advised that in coming days preschools "should either reopen or
prepare a much stronger response to remote support for young
children's learning and development."
preschool shutdowns appeared to worsen educational inequalities, the
researchers wrote. Home learning environments have proven more
unequal than preschools, and public preschool programs provided their
greatest benefits to the most disadvantaged children. For young
children with disabilities, the loss was even greater, with almost a
quarter receiving no supports whatsoever after classrooms closed.
provision of services for young children with disabilities poses
serious challenges, Barnett asserted, that didn't excuse the failure
to provide services.
best way to address this inequality is to reopen schools for our
youngest children, who learn best through hands-on activities and
engaging with responsive adults and other children," he said.
"The challenge of protecting the health of our young
children--and their family members and teachers--even if much less
than for older children and adults should not be underestimated, and
preschools will need funding to mitigate risks. However, the costs
and difficulties of providing even partially effective supports for
preschool learners with classrooms closed must not be underestimated
research was funded with support from Overdeck
and the PNC
the PNC Foundation also provided support for disseminating the
research reports, including a technical report, special report and
methodology, are openly available on
the NIEER website.
Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.