BOSTON, July 20, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- The Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative at the Harvard Graduate School of Education released findings today from the Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H) COVID-19 parent and early educator surveys, which capture the ongoing experiences of children, families, and early educators during the pandemic in Massachusetts.
The report, "Persevering Through the Pandemic: Key Learnings about Children from Parents and Early Educators," contains five snapshots from data gathered in late 2020 and early 2021 and extends ELS@H's previous COVID-19 report findings from 2020, which underscored the stressors and supportive home-school connections that families and educators experienced during the earliest months of the pandemic. The data snapshots from this report address two guiding questions: How are children doing? And what is helping children and families cope with the challenges they have faced over the past 15 months? The findings highlight the sources of strength and resilience that families and young children drew upon during the height of the public health crisis.
"Now, more than one year into the global health crisis, the widespread impacts of COVID-19 are abundantly clear. Many families have struggled to support children at home while balancing everyday responsibilities, navigating public health threats, and coping with economic uncertainty. Early educators, many of them parents, have faced similar obstacles, along with the additional challenge of keeping their programs afloat," said Stephanie Jones, Gerald S. Lesser Professor of Early Childhood Development at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. "As part of our large-scale study launched in 2017, this new round of findings documents changes parents and early educators have observed in young children's development, in particular in their social and emotional well-being. Importantly, parents also noted key sources of resilience and support. We should pay particular attention to these as they provide a window into how we can support families going forward."
How are children doing?
Parents of 6- to 8-year-old children participating in ELS@H expressed widespread concerns about the pandemic's impact on their children's academic and social-emotional development. Of those surveyed, 58% of parents reported that their child's academic development had been negatively impacted by the pandemic, and 61% reported that their child's social-emotional development had been negatively affected.
Early educators working with 3- and 4-year-old children similarly observed pandemic-related impacts on children. Over half (53%) of educators reported changes in children's behaviors in their settings, but not all changes were negative. While 77% classified these changes as negative, nearly one quarter classified these changes as positive. Among early educators noting negative behavioral changes, many reported increases in a range of challenging behaviors including: temper tantrums, regression in self-help skills, trouble switching activities, sadness or crying, and difficulty separating from parents.
What is helping children and families cope?
Parents acknowledged that educators and schools have played a central role in supporting their families through the pandemic and helping children navigate its complexities. The majority of parents (87%) were satisfied with their child's school's response to the pandemic and agreed on the following: educators and schools were doing their best to support their child (85% agreed); educators cared about the success of their child (89% agreed); and their child's school prioritized their child's safety (85% agreed).
Consistent with what parents reported about their children's teachers, early educators reported they spent nearly an hour a day introducing and reinforcing pandemic protocols with children. In addition, most early educators also reported helping children process the pandemic, talking with children about germs, safety measures, and the challenges of social distancing protocols.
In the face of the pandemic's numerous challenges, one thing is certain: families have also drawn strength from increased time with each other. Eighty-two percent of parents reported their family spent more time together than before and when asked about their "biggest help" during the pandemic, many families listed "strong family bonds."
Download the report for more findings and to receive the Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative's actionable insights to guide efforts to mitigate the pandemic's adverse consequences and bolster supports for children and caregivers during the pandemic recovery period.
The Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative partnered with Abt Associates, a global research and consulting firm with offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to conduct surveys with (1) parents of young children, and (2) early educators. The approximately 1,400 parents and guardians included in the parent survey were recruited from the sample of children and families that ELS@H is following over time. The early educator survey involved nearly 900 early educators working with three- and four-year-old children in community-based centers, family child care, Head Start, and public school prekindergarten providers. These early educators were recruited to the survey because either they or someone in their setting had cared for a participating ELS@H child in the first or second year of the study when children were three- or four-years-old or they were randomly selected from a list of licensed family child care providers from the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC).
About the Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H)
Now in its fourth year, ELS@H is a first-of-its-kind, large-scale, population-based study of young children's learning and care settings across the state of Massachusetts. The study's representative sample and longitudinal design enable it to address key questions facing today's policymakers and practitioners. It focuses, in particular, on questions about scaling effective models and practices and about the characteristics of early education and care settings that are connected to children's long–term health and well-being.
About The Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative
The Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) promotes the knowledge, professional learning, and collective action necessary to cultivate optimal early learning environments and experiences. The Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative is supported by a $35.5 million gift from the Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation, one of the largest gifts ever given to a university for advancing early childhood education.
SOURCE Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative