Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children
Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

“Expulsion is a punishment no preschooler should have to experience,” Kate Abbott writes in a recent Preschool Matters blog posted by NIEER (the National Institute for Early Education Research).

Abbott, the director of Early Education at the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union, points to four “evidence-based points” that policymakers and early educators should keep in mind as the nation expands preschool:

• “Children who exhibit challenging behavior have the best chance of learning appropriate social skills when they are identified early and provided with effective interventions.”

• “Children who are not able to access interventions before age 8 are much more resistant to change.”

• “Schools and early education programs that are proactive and systemic in addressing the academic, behavioral and social emotional needs of students have greater success.”

• “A wealth of research exists identifying effective strategies for supporting students with challenging behavior at both a class and individual level.”

Sadly, however, preschool expulsions are common. And Abbott explains that these expulsions limit children’s access to high-quality programs.

“Suspension and expulsion deny children the very environment they need to develop appropriate social and behavioral skills. The longer children with unsafe and disruptive behaviors go without intervention, the more difficult it is to change behavior.”

Worse, while thousands of children are expelled, “there is little or no evidence that suspension and expulsion have any benefit on the safety of school environment, or any meaningful impact on the likelihood the behavior will recur,” Abbot says.

Curbing pre-K expulsions is particularly important now as states implement the Every Child Succeeds Act, which offers federal support for expanding access to pre-K programs.

As Abbott says, “Early childhood is an amazing stage of life, and in no other time in our life do we possess as much potential to grow and develop. Let us not waste this opportunity for our children; let us work to ensure our children receive the best early education possible by using a proactive, systemic approach to building resilience, and find alternatives to preschool expulsion.”