The COVID-19 crisis upended life for both young children and the early care and education (ECE) programs that serve them. Expert consensus suggests a need for urgent action at all levels of government.

With colleagues from seven other universities and research organizations, we synthesized the evidence (PDF) on the pandemic’s impact on young children’s learning and on ECE programs and teachers. We focused on 76 high-quality studies and collaborated with ECE policy and practice leaders from multiple states to identify actionable, evidence-backed, and equity-centered solutions for addressing young children’s immediate needs, stabilizing hard-hit ECE programs, supporting early educators, and mitigating longer-term ramifications of the crisis.

Our findings show that young children (ages 8 and younger), especially children from families with low incomes, dual-language learners, children of color, and children with disabilities, were negatively affected by the pandemic. ECE programs and the early educators who have an essential role in young children’s development suffered too, especially in the child care sector, which historically has received far fewer public supports than Head Start or public preschool.

Researchers around the country have written more than 300 reports about the experiences of children, ECE program operators, and early educators during the pandemic. Though intended to inform policy responses and system recovery, the sheer volume of research findings has been overwhelming, especially for leaders inundated with urgent demands.

To synthesize the evidence on the pandemic’s effects on young children and ECE programs, we assembled a team of 16 leading ECE scholars and 10 ECE policy and practice leaders from around the country. Scholars drew on their methodological and substantive expertise as well as insights from research-practice partnerships with states and school districts. Policy and practice partners drew on more than 15 months of experience making high-stakes decisions during the crisis, along with years of experience leading ECE systems nationwide. Such consensus among the field is rare but critical in developing timely, actionable, equity-centered recommendations that can support the recovery and resilience of ECE programs and the young children and families who depend on them.

Read the full article about early childhood care and education programs by Erica Greenberg at Urban Institute.