Since March 2020, researchers have produced more than 300 reports on the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on young children’s learning and on the early care and education (ECE) programs that serve them. Very quickly, ECE leaders facing the urgent day-to-day demands of COVID-19 response also faced a deluge of evidence—far more than they could efficiently find, sort, and use.

To help provide policymakers with a clear understanding of the pandemic’s effects on young children’s learning and ECE programs, our team of 16 early childhood experts and 10 early childhood policy leaders recently released a summary of this evidence base. We reviewed 76 high-quality studies in depth, spanning 16 national studies, 45 studies in 31 states, and 15 local studies. Our work illuminated a national story of learning setbacks and unmet needs, for which we offered evidence-backed, equity-centered policy solutions.

But another advantage of taking stock of what we know was discovering what we don’t know. Our in-depth review revealed six takeaways about where research in this area should go next. Especially given that American Rescue Plan funds can be used to build research capacity in state and local agencies, our hope is that a clear statement of what stakeholders need to know next is helpful for producing new evidence to guide investments going forward.

Here are six priorities for future research going forward:

  1. Continue to track recovery for children, families, teachers, and programs.
  2. Document changes to ECE programs and children’s experiences that are not captured in existing data. 
  3. Measure learning outcomes for the youngest learners directly and across multiple domains. 
  4. Collect systematic data on the ECE workforce.
  5. Prioritize research on groups hit hardest.
  6. Evaluate the impacts of new investments. 

Read the full article about priorities for research by Christina Weiland, Erica Greenberg, Daphna Bassok, Anna Markowitz, Paola Guerrero Rosada, and Grace Luetmer at Brookings.