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Study shows how pandemic impacted Kindergarten readiness

Posted at 7:33 AM, Feb 23, 2024

COVID-19 disrupted learning in a big way for kids in school. We've seen studies, seminars, documentaries, and a lot of articles written about it.

But we haven't heard much about how the pandemic affected children who weren't in school yet. Specifically, those under age six. Until now.

A study published in JAMA Pediatrics looked at data from three different years (2018, 2019, and 2021) and found in 2021, 30% of Cincinnati Public Schools students were assessed as kindergarten ready - a ten percent drop from data collected in 2018 before the pandemic.

Click here to read more of the study's findings.

"It was definitely a burden on parents, on teachers, on everyone," said Dr. Kristen Copeland with Cincinnati Children's Hospital, the study's lead author.

"I just know anecdotally from seeing patients, a single father who had lost his job and had two kids under the age of four. It's very hard to kind of keep them engaged."

Dr. Copeland explains the findings are based on data from around 8,000 children, many of whom receive healthcare through the providers' primary care clinics.

The study found a similar pattern in those 3,200 children who receive care through Cincinnati Children's clinics: 21.5% were deemed ready to learn in 2021 compared to 32% in 2018.

"This was a population that was at greater risk in terms of socioeconomics like they were already facing adversity and then the pandemic seemed to just add to that."

The children all took a state-required test called Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA) which Dr. Copeland says assesses the child's development in terms of pre-literacy skills, pre-math skills, and some socio-emotional skills like self-regulation and attention to task.

"We have been advocating for decades for universal pre-kindergarten, full-day kindergarten. Very few states fully fund these things," said Daaiyah Bilal-Threats, Senior Director for Education Policy at the National Education Association.

Bilal-Threats says a study like this points out the importance of investing in our students early on.

"I would also say more funding for Head Start, another really important program that really does work to give kids a head start. Universal, free, and healthy school meals. Another very powerful thing we've seen take off in some places. It's really important that our kids are well fed and nourished and ready to learn," said Bilal-Threats.

Even though this research wasn't national, Bilal-Threats says the NEA hears from educators across the country who say resources are desperately needed to prepare kids for learning. The study only highlights how everything is connected.

"It showed that the healthcare system, the education system, the housing system, the food system, and the economic system, and others, all really work together," she added.

"It showed that one screening result can actually signal significantly that a child might not be ready for kindergarten. It gives us that extra encouragement and validation to continue to do these screening tests and really to continue to pay close attention if a child fails one of these developmental screeners to pay close attention to make sure we're offering everything," said Dr. Copeland.

E.W. Scripps reached out to Cincinnati Public Schools for comment, but the district did not have a statement to offer at the time of this article's publication.