Nationwide testing has revealed devastating consequences for students from COVID-19 lockdowns. But now there’s some good news.
A new study from Canada shows that for preschoolers, staying at home had significant, though unsurprising, benefits.
The study in the JAMA Network Open, of the Journal of the American Medical Association, measured children at 24 months and at 54 months and found that “pandemic-exposed children had significantly higher problem solving and fine motor skills at 24 months of age but lower personal-social skills compared with nonexposed children. At 54 months of age, pandemic-exposed children had significantly higher vocabulary, visual memory, and overall cognitive performance compared with nonexposed children.”
The study of kids at these ages is particularly important because their brains are developing so rapidly, said the authors.
The “long-term consequences of the pandemic on developmental outcomes in children are not fully understood, particularly for preschool-aged children who may be highly sensitive to pandemic stress given the heightened plasticity of the brain during this period,” they wrote.
The study comes with some caveats: the number of children measured was relatively small and the demographics of those studied were limited to children of relatively well-off families near Toronto, Canada.
Still, the study tends to bolster the findings from the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), which is usually cited as the gold standard for studies on early childhood education.
“Up to the age of three, home is best,” reported Psychology Today about the results of the NICHD study. “Little kids do best – less stress, fewer behavioral problems, better health – if they’re cared for at home, and a parent can be home with them a lot of the time.”
The NICHD study is often cited as proof that universal preschool benefits children over 3 years old, but that’s not exactly what the study found. After 3 years of age, the study found kids benefited by attending “good preschools or junior kindergartens,” said Psychology Today – the operative word being “good.”
Few people would argue today that federally funded public schools are doing a good job.
The results of the Canadian study could help provide an additional black mark against the concept of universal daycare, which progressives have been pushing for several years.
In 2021, the Biden administration proposed to provide federal funds to states to participate in a pre-kindergarten daycare program under the Build Back Better infrastructure proposal. The idea, so far, has been killed by Republican opposition at the federal and state level, according to the Washington Post.
The opposition has been based primarily on the fact that the Biden daycare proposal had a funding time limit.
“In general, we’re wary of federal policies that have drastic effects on sectors of a state’s economy, especially when those policies come with time-limited federal subsidies that create major uncertainty for state budgets in the out years,” a spokesman for North Carolina state Senate leader Phil Berger, a Republican, told the Post.
It’s likely just a matter of time before progressives make another push for some subsidized, federally mandated daycare program. Better arguments than needing longer federal government subsidies may be required to push back against universal daycare.