COVID-19 Policy Fallout
Preschoolers Losing Learning Opportunities in Pandemic
- By Dian Schaffhauser
students aren't the only ones who have experienced learning loss due
to the pandemic. According to new research, children ages 3 to 5 have
also lost important learning opportunities over the last year.
Preschool enrollment rates were down nearly a quarter across the
country, and in-person education decreased even more. There was also
a sharp decline in parent at-home support for book reading and other
learning activities, and parents reported higher-than-normal rates of
mental health problems for their young children.
findings came out of a survey
undertaken by the National
Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at the
Graduate School of Education. In December 2020 the
organization queried 1,001 families of children not yet in
kindergarten, asking similar questions as an earlier survey done in
survey found that pre-pandemic, 51% of three-year-olds and 71% of
four-year-olds participated in preschool. By fall, in-person
attendance had dropped to 32% and 40% and hybrid or remote
participation declined to 39% and 54%, respectively. Those with
household incomes below $25,000 were far less likely to have children
participating in preschool than families with incomes above that
support for early learning saw a drop in many but not all areas.
Whereas pre-pandemic, 85% of parents read to their kids, that shrank
to 71% during the pandemic. Similarly, direct interaction on teaching
letters, words and numbers fell from 73% to 66% before and during the
pandemic. However, the amount of story-telling (38% before versus 54%
during) and singing (67% versus 73%) rose over the same period.
Working on arts and crafts together stayed about the same (46% versus
share of parents who reported "high" levels of social and
emotional problems with their children has also evolved during the
pandemic. While the number of respondents citing emotional symptoms
among their kids rose from 3% to 9%; behavior problems increased from
20% to 25%; and evidence of prosocial behavior (those behaviors that
benefit others) shrank from 26% to 16%. Other aspects declined.
Hyperactivity dropped from 16% to 14% and peer problems from 19% to
too experienced emotional roller-coasters. Almost half (47%) said
they felt "very" overwhelmed by the responsibilities they
faced in facilitating at-home learning for their children. Among the
hardships parents reported from the pandemic, the most common one,
mentioned by 32%, was getting less work done due to child care and
pandemic has dealt a one-two punch to the nation's young children,
decreasing opportunities to learn in preschool programs while sapping
parents' capacity to support learning at home," said W. Steven
Barnett, NIEER's senior co-director and founder and an author of the
survey report, in a statement.
entire report is openly available on
the NIEER website.
Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.