Building Blocks for Preschool Success
Success in preschool requires educators, psychologists, parents and caregivers working together to keep our youngest learners in the classroom.
Preschool is a critical period to nurture curiosity, a sense of discovery and achieve key learning milestones among our youngest students in order to establish overall school readiness. Denying young children the opportunity to attend preschool flies directly in the face of this. Many people are unaware that preschool suspensions and expulsions dwarf those during grades K through 12 by a factor of more than three to one.
Expulsions and suspensions from our early care and education programs show significant racial and gender disparities (PDF, 2MB). These disparities in discipline set the most vulnerable members of our society on a path to failure feeding the preschool-to-prison pipeline.
- African-American children are 18 percent of preschool kids, but 48 percent of children receiving more than one out-of-school suspension.
- African-American preschool children are 3.6 times more likely to receive one or more out-of-school suspensions as white preschool children.
- Boys make up 54 percent of enrolled preschoolers, but 79 percent of children suspended once and 82 percent of children suspended multiple times.
- African-American boys represent 19 percent of the male preschool enrollment, but represent 45 percent of male preschool children receiving one or more out-of-school suspensions.
- African-American girls represent 20 percent of female preschool enrollment, but 54 percent of female preschool children receiving one or more out-of-school suspensions.
Research tells us (PDF, 401KB) that implicit biases are at the root of these disparities in discipline. No one is immune to implicit bias, but to address this issue — we need all hands on deck. Educators, psychologists, and parents/caregivers can and should work together to prevent preschool suspensions and expulsions. For each of these groups, this page lists resources for supporting the social and emotional development of our youngest learners and effectively addressing challenging behaviors in the classroom that lead to suspension. At the end of the day, we must keep all of our kids in preschool and ensure they have the necessary building blocks for later success.
School Suspensions Are an Adult Behavior
Reducing challenging behaviors
"It is our responsibility to look for what's good, right and best in every single child… Imagine a world where we intentionally taught children prosocial skills, gave them many opportunities to practice, and positively reinforced them every time they used those skills. Challenging behaviors would be greatly reduced. Actually, the Pyramid Model for social emotional development of infants and young children has proven this to be true time and time again. When we use these strategies, we can disrupt the preschool-to-prison pipeline, we can eradicate preschool suspensions and we can mitigate the negative impact of preschool suspensions on the child and on our society." — Rosemarie Allen, EdD (assistant professor, Early Childhood Education — Metropolitan State University of Denver)
Parent and teacher relationships
"I've been studying children being expelled and suspended from preschool programs for a very long time and I'll tell you one thing that I've never seen. I thought I'd seen it all, but one thing I've never seen is a child expelled or suspended from a preschool program when the teacher and the parent knew and liked each other. In our very young child and preschool programs, we don't really expel children, we expel the parents. So one of the remedies actually might be forming better relationships between the entities that care for this child during a significant portion of their waking hours." — Walter Gilliam, PhD (director, The Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy at Yale University)
Practice Based Coaching and the Pyramid Model
"In our work, behavior coaches use a systematic model referred to as "Practice Based Coaching" to support teachers to implement the Pyramid Model practices. When teachers receive this coaching, they use the Pyramid Model practices with higher levels of fidelity and report positive changes in children's social skills and challenging behavior. When we work with programs to implement the Pyramid Model program wide, they make a commitment to ensure that teachers have the support to ensure that all children receive the support they need to be successfully included in the program. When teachers received support from a behavior coach, they implement effective practices and children's social skills and problem behavior improve." — Mary Louise Hemmeter, PhD (professor, department of special education at Vanderbilt University)
Positive relationships with adults
"Young children thrive through positive relationships with adults around them. As early childhood educators create a culture where all children are encouraged, supported, safe and learning, they can rely on developmentally-appropriate and culturally-relevant practices to guide their responses to challenging behavior - and, above all, form meaningful, respectful and positive relationships with parents and families." — Lauren Hogan (senior director of Public Policy and Advocacy, Early Learning Systems, National Association for the Education of Young Children)
Identifying family and community expectations
"We keep young children in school when we don't make assumptions that they know exactly what we want them to do. Instead, we can identify expectations that families and community members value, teach them directly, and acknowledge when they do things the right way. When children engage in behaviors we don't want, we can support them better by treating it as an instructional opportunity, not willful defiance." — Kent McIntosh, PhD, NCSP (director, Educational Supports at University of Oregon)
- Implementing Policies to Reduce the Likelihood of Preschool Expulsion (PDF, 2.2MB) — Foundation for Child Development Policy Brief
Standing Together Against Suspension and Expulsion in Early Childhood Education
NAEYC research on implicit bias and early childhood educators. Includes resources for teachers and list of federal technical assistance centers.
Pyramid Equity Project Fact Sheet (PDF, 410KB)
Promoting social emotional competence and addressing disproportionate discipline in early childhood programs. From the Pyramid Model Consortium.
Policy Statement on Expulsion and Suspension Policies in Early Childhood Settings (PDF, 1.3MB)
U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Education policy statement to raise awareness and provide recommendations on setting goals to prevent expulsion and suspension practices.
Challenging Behavior and Expulsion from Child Care
This article from the Zero to Three journal discusses how infant and early childhood mental health consultation can help reduce the risk for expulsion and provides a detailed list of specific strategies consultants recommend for use with teachers.
Center for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation
The Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development provides resources for mental health consultants, education professionals and families.
Diversity Informed Mental Health Tenets
These tenets empower individual practitioners, agencies and systems of care to identify and address the social justice issues intricately intertwined with all infant mental health work.
Early Childhood Consultation Partnership
Advanced Behavioral Health, Inc and the Department of Children and Families implemented the Early Childhood Consultation Partnership initiative to create solutions together to address young children’s mental health.
Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports
Resources for addressing discipline disproportionality in education, increasing equity and policy recommendations.
Pyramid Model Consortium
List of fact sheets on addressing implicit bias and expulsion and suspension practices and the Pyramid Model. Includes a featured webinar on the Pyramid Model, presenter profiles and supporting materials.
Zero to Three "Preventing Expulsion from Preschool and Child Care"
Practitioner resources on how to better support social and emotional development to prevent expulsion of young children from educational settings, including videos.
- The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning at Vanderbilt University
- Pyramid Model Consortium Training Services
- Social Skills Training for Preschool Students via Institute for Education Sciences
- Technical Assistance Center on Social Emotional Interventions
- U.S. Department of Education Safe Supportive Learning Portal
Webinar Series on Preschool Expulsions From the Administration on Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- Expulsion Webinar 1 — Basic Research (PDF, 3MB)
- Expulsion Webinar 2 — Policies (PDF, 1.4MB)
- Expulsion Webinar 3 — Program Quality and Professional Development (PDF, 4.8MB)
- Expulsion Webinar 4 — Using Data Systems (PDF, 6.5MB)
Webinar by the National Conference of State Legislators
State and Local Action to Prevent Expulsion and Suspension in Early Learning Settings (PDF, 798KB)
Administration for Children and Families
Timeline of Research, Commentary, and Policy Regarding Preschool Expulsions and Suspensions
The Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy at Yale University
Resources from the Administration on Children and Families:
- Garrity, S.M., Longstreth, S.L.; Salcedo-Potter, N.S.; & Staub, A. (2016). Using the teaching and guidance policy essentials checklist to build and support effective early childhood systems. Early Childhood Education Journal, 44(3), 209-216. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10643-015-0713-6
- Gilliam, W.S.; Maupin, A.N.; & Reyes, C.R. (2016). Early childhood mental health consultation: Results of a statewide random-controlled evaluation. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 55(9), 754-761. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2016.06.006
- Gilliam, W.S., Maupin, A.N., Reyes, C.R., Accavitti, M., & Shic, F. (2016). Do early educators' implicit biases regarding sex and race relate to behavior expectations and recommendations of preschool expulsions and suspensions? Yale University Child Study Center. Retrieved from: http://ziglercenter.yale.edu/publications/Preschool%20Implicit%20Bias%20Policy%20Brief_final_9_26_276766_5379.pdf
- Hemmeter, M.L., Fox, L., Snyder, P., & Algina, J. (2014). A classroom-wide model for promotion social emotional development and addressing challenging behavior in preschool children. Teaching Pyramid Research Project. Retrieved from: http://www.pyramidmodel.org/uploads/9/5/6/3/9563066/social_emotional_development__addressing_challenging_behavior_in_preschool_children.pdf
- Hunter, A., & Hemmeter, M.L. (2009). The Center on Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning: Addressing challenging behavior in infants and toddlers. Journal of Zero to Three. Retrieved from: https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/170-addressing-challenging-behavior-in-infants-and-toddlers
- McGoey, K.E., Rispoli, K., Schneider, D.L., Clark, B., & Novak, K.J.P. (2013). Improving behavior with preschool consultation: A pilot study of the TOTS model. Journal of Educational & Psychological Consultation, 23(3), 185-199. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10474412.2013.785180
- Perry, D.F., Dunne, M.C., McFadden, L., & Campbell, D. (2008). Reducing the risk for preschool expulsion: Mental health consultation for young children with challenging behaviors. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 17(1), 44-54. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10826-007-9140-7
APA meeting on preschool suspensions/expulsions
APA Facebook Live video with Walter Gilliam, PhD, and Rosemarie Allen, PhD.
What is the Pyramid Model?
Video from the Pyramid Model Consortium.
Allen on the pyramid model of care.
Visual Tour of the Pyramid Model
Technical Assistance Center on Social Emotional Intervention for Young Children presentation.
Detrimental effects of suspensions within early childhood for students in Texas
Episode of Texas Appleseed's video blog The Core.
Preschool suspensions target black students
CNN video report.
"A principal met a student she expelled, and it changed her approach to discipline"
Washington Post video about a former principal who expelled student.
- The Effects of a Professional Development Intervention on Teachers' Implementation of the Pyramid Model Practices and Children's Outcomes (PDF, 148KB) Mary Louise Hemmeter's, PhD, PowerPoint slides.
"What's Behind Preschool Expulsion?"
Zero to Three video series from June 11, 2015 congressional briefing.
Disparity in Discipline Starts in Preschool
Graph from Global Grind shows the percentage of suspended preschool students, organized by race and type of suspension.
Chart from the City University of New York shows African-American students are suspended from preschool at a rate disproportionate to population.
When it Comes to Suspensions, Racial Inequities start in Preschool
Shows percentages of African-American and white preschoolers suspended from 2013-2014. From Mother Jones.
Preschool Suspensions by Race/Ethnicity and Gender
Graphs from Peter and Polly show enrollment and suspension rates among girls and boys, and by race.
Useful Blog Posts
- Equity and excellence in the earliest years: Action on expulsion and suspension in early childhood settings via Administration on Children and Families
- Responding to problem behavior in preschoolers via The Child Mind Institute
- California moves forward in 8 state collaboration on social and emotional learning via EdSource
- Connecticut curbs preschool suspensions with mental health support via EdWeek
- Burroughs-Molette students celebrate PBIS kick-off rally via Golden Isles News
- Expelled in preschool via The Hechinger Report
- Too many black girls in preschool disciplined and pushed out via National Women's Law Center
- Preschool suspensions: Addressing disproportional discipline practices via Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Blog
- Can preschool expulsion be prevented? A growing body of research says yes! via Psychology Benefits Society
- Practice to policy: How Louisiana revamped its approach to preschool via Psychology Benefits Society
- What could make less sense than expelling a preschooler? via Psychology Benefits Society
- Overcoming implicit bias and racial anxiety via Psychology Today
- New data shows the school-to-prison pipeline starts as early as preschool via ThinkProgress
Useful News Articles
- The pre-k to prison pipeline: Black preschoolers labeled 'violent,' 'problems,' suspended nearly 4 times more often than whites via The Atlanta Blackstar
- Why are so many preschoolers getting suspended? via The Atlantic
- Guarding against damaging implicit racial bias — even in our preschools via Huffington Post
- Preschool suspensions: Young children who are being left behind via Huffington Post
- Black preschool kids get suspended much more frequently than white preschool kids, U.S. survey says via The Los Angeles Times
- Ending the school-to-prison pipeline is village work via NBC News
- School suspensions don't help kids gain confidence via The New York Daily News
- Why preschool suspensions still happen (and how to stop them) via NPR
- Preschool suspensions really happen and that's not OK with Connecticut via NPR
- El Paso ISD preps for ban on suspending youngest students via The Texas Observer
- Preschool suspensions are made worse by racial disparities via The Washington Post
- My son has been suspended five times. He's 3 via The Washington Post
- APA Classroom Management Modules
- APA Early Learning Guidelines (ELG) Educator Toolkit
- APA "Ethnic and Racial Disparities in Education" resource
- APA "Improving Students' Relationships with Teachers to Provide Essential Supports for Learning" Resource
- APA Podcast — "Socioemotional Learning in African American and Latino Boys"
- APA Teacher Stress Module
- APA "Preventing Discrimination and Promoting Diversity" Report (PDF, 2MB)
- APA Zero Tolerance Report (PDF, 96KB)
- The Annie E. Casey Foundation's Race, Equity and Inclusion Action Guide
- The Annie E. Casey Foundation Race Matters Toolkit User's Guide
- Kirwan Institute State of the Science: Implicit Bias Review (PDF, 1MB)
- Perception Institute - Addressing Implicit Bias, Racial Anxiety, and Stereotype Threat in Education and Health Care (PDF, 1.9MB)
- U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights Data Snapshot: School Discipline (PDF, 2MB)
- U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights Data Snapshot: Early Childhood Education (PDF, 1.6MB)
- White House "My Brother's Keeper" Initiative