By: M.L. Schultze Access article
Preschool—viewed as potentially the great equalizer in education—got walloped in the pandemic. Kids disappeared from the rolls, and the loss was greatest in communities of color and poverty. But coming out of the shutdown, efforts are underway to recover and, perhaps, grow preschool post-pandemic.
Judah Israel Stokes was three when the pandemic struck, upending plans for him to follow his sister’s footsteps, literally, to preschool. Like districts throughout Ohio, Canton City went virtual, increasing demands on working and single parents. Mom, Dayree, said it was overwhelming.
“It was like, okay, I need a moment. This is hard. Help!” she said.
Stokes said everyone was trying hard to make virtual education work. She was even a bit hopeful that Canton’s plan to put iPads in the hands of every child, even preschoolers, would pay benefits.
“I thought it would go okay because it’s a tablet, you know. Kids love tablets,” she laughed.
She quickly learned that being screen savvy is no substitute for the learning that comes from play and interaction, and the science supports her.
A summary of research by the American Institutes for Research concluded overall that children are more successful in school and beyond if they are given a strong foundation in the earliest years of their life. The rest is in the details: just how early learning and school readiness approaches affect everything from language to social-emotional skills, how to ensure quality programs and how to measure the progress kids make.
Groundwork Ohio is lobbying Ohio to make a bigger commitment to preschool education and child care. Director Shannon Jones notes the state has no comprehensive preschool program, and the earliest of childhood education is often considered ancillary.
But, she notes, 80% of the brain is built in the first three years of life.
“It’s literally setting that brain architecture that’s not only supporting the academic learning potential, but the social and emotional and executive functioning skills that are essential” for life, she said.