“We support all efforts to help our national, state, district, and classroom policies catch up to what we know is right—ensuring that all children have a safe space in which to play, learn, and grow.” — NAEYC Joint Statement
We know that attendance in high quality preschool is a valuable time to introduce young children to good attendance habits, school readiness such as listening, and social and emotional development skills. We also know that young children thrive in the supportive relationships with adults who teach and care for them.
Yet in preschools across the county too many kids are being pushed out of classrooms, missing critical learning time because of suspensions and expulsions.
Research results on suspension and expulsion at the preschool level is shocking. Suspension and expulsion of preschoolers in childcare centers occurs at more than 13 times the rate of suspensions and expulsions in K-12, research shows. And the burden of suspension falls more heavily on children of color than on their white peers. African American children represent 18 percent of preschool enrollment but make up 48 percent of preschool children receiving more than one out-of-school suspension, according to an analysis from the Office for Civil Rights.
The stunning number of preschool expulsion and suspensions reflects a serious issue that not only undermines education achievement, but also positions school as a punitive environment for thousands of children who may not have academic opportunities outside of the classroom.
That’s why Attendance Works is one of 30 organizations that have joined with the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) in a push to highlight preschool suspension. With a joint statement published by NAEYC, the groups stand together to support the policy statement and recommendations released by the US Department of Health and Human Services in 2014, to address the issue and bring the number of preschool suspensions down to zero. NAEYC also has gathered resources on a new webpage that offer technical assistance and guidance, as well as tips and research to help move the needle on the establishment of policies and practices to bring down the number of preschool suspensions and expulsions.
A preschool culture of attendance that focuses on personal warmth, a welcoming environment, and a full understanding of the developmental process from the outset of schooling will most often create long-term outcomes for children and their families. Whether the actions of program providers surrounding absences and student misbehavior are penalty-oriented or constructive and collaborative will have a profound long-term affect on a child and family’s school career.
The good news is that preschools are piloting creative, age appropriate ways to support the level of attendance essential for reading readiness and social emotional development. Districts, schools and communities across the country, including Chicago, New York City, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Marshalltown, Iowa, have developed innovative ways of welcoming and engaging preschoolers and their families.
The NAEYC statement has several important messages, including:
- We must continue to shine a light on data that inform our decision making, while we work together to create systems, policies, and practices that reduce disparities across race and gender, preventing and eventually eliminating expulsions and suspensions in early childhood settings.
- Policies and programs should be established to increase access to early childhood mental health consultation, invest in family engagement, diversify the teacher pipeline, and ensure that all early educators engage in professional development that supports them in being culturally responsive, cognizant of bias, and focused on relationship development.
- These efforts require a collaborative and sustained commitment that includes increasing supports and compensation for educators across settings and sectors – and every one of us has a part to play.