Addressing the effects of the pandemic on early learning

To: Education system leaders and policymakers
From: Jumpstart for Young Children
Re: Addressing the effects of the pandemic on early learning
Date: November 17, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic drastically changed children’s early learning environments. Despite some important benefits such as more time with family and increased exposure to home languages, many infants and young children experienced reduced language input and fewer play interactions—all of which are critical for laying the foundation for later academic success. Recent research has borne this out, finding that children born during the pandemic are demonstrating delays in verbal, motor, and cognitive development compared to their pre-pandemic peers. The differences in vocalizations were greatest among children from underserved communities. (Shuffey et al, 2022; Beauchemin et al., 2021; LENA, 2022). As children of this age group are now entering preschool, we are faced with a tremendous opportunity: to provide them with a language infusion that can help jumpstart their learning and set them up for success in kindergarten and beyond.

Jumpstart’s core programming offers solutions that address the effects of the pandemic on young learners, and we are launching the Building Futures campaign to help us broaden our reach and deepen our impact. We invite all to join us in building bright futures for all children and make the following early childhood programming and policy recommendations:

  • To Educators and Education System Leaders (District Leaders, School System decisionmakers)

    • Support oral language infusion in preschool settings to address pandemic impacts on children’s language development. Children in underserved communities can benefit most from robust classroom language environments that include reading, play, and intentional language support from multiple adults with varied linguistic backgrounds. Adult-child conversations and interactions have been shown by research to increase brain activity and contribute to long-term language and developmental outcomes (Gilkerson et al., 2018Romeo et al., 2018). Ensure high-quality language environments for preschool-age children in underserved communities by:
      • Increasing interactive talk between educators/caregivers and children.
      • Utilizing curriculum that builds knowledge and vocabulary through read-alouds, peer-to-peer play, and a diversity of experiences.
      • Training and supporting early educators on creating rich language environments and facilitating nurturing, responsive interactions.
      • Increasing adult to child ratios in classrooms to allow for more individualized interactions and small-group conversations and play.
  • To Policymakers

    • Support early education providers by increasing public investment at the federal and state levels so that providers are reimbursed for the full cost of providing high-quality care, including higher teacher-student ratios that facilitate more language-rich interactions between educators and children. Reimburse programs based on enrollment instead of attendance to stabilize provider revenue. Support other proven early education programs, like Jumpstart, which provide preschool-age children with individualized language, literacy, and social-emotional development support that helps them thrive.
    • Support early educators by increasing early educator compensation, improving affordability and access to credentialing, and expanding funding to support ongoing professional development for current educators.
    • Ongoing teacher shortages, exacerbated by the pandemic, have forced many early childhood centers to serve fewer children or close altogether. To ensure that children continue to have access to high-quality early learning and individualized support, the early educator career track must be prioritized to attract and retain talented individuals.
    • Support families by increasing public investment to reduce the crippling cost of care. Early education and care options must be made more affordable so that all our families can access the system.
    • Limit the use of exclusionary discipline so that children can continue to reap the academic and social-emotional benefits of in-person instruction. To achieve this goal, fund behavioral health specialists and implement policies that limit exclusion, suspension and expulsion.

ABOUT JUMPSTART FOR YOUNG CHILDREN

For 29 years, Jumpstart has been fueled by the core belief that providing high-quality educational opportunities to all young children prepares them for academic and economic success. Jumpstart provides an early education solution that meets the needs of the children and communities we serve while advocating for change that ensures that all children have access to the early learning opportunities they need. Learn more at www.jstart.org.

To learn more about the Building Futures campaign or Jumpstart’s recommendations, please contact jumpstart@br.com. Jumpstart CEO Naila Bolus and Vice President of Education & Research Jessica Lazzara are available for interviews.

Together, we can help all children build the key language and literacy skills they need to take on the world.

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