Disenrollment in early childhood education – Part 2: Expulsion reduction strategies and resources

With an awareness of the problem and a wide variety of no-cost resources available for early childhood teacher educators, we have alternatives to disenrollment.

In Part 1 of this multi-part series of articles, we looked at the high expulsion rate for African-American boys from early childhood programs. Challenging behaviors and lack of emotional regulation was the frequently-stated cause for dis-enrolling these children. In this article, we will address strategies to reduce the number of expulsions by training early childhood educators to use techniques and specific skills that build social and emotional skills.

Early childhood administrators can access researched-based programs to guide and prepare preschool teachers to use suitable and effective methods to help children manage challenging behaviors. In a webinar on reducing suspension and expulsion practices in early childhood settings, sponsored by the U.S. Administration for Children and Families office, researchers Mary Louise Hemmeter, professor at Vanderbilt University, Barbara Smith, research professor and director at University of Colorado Denver, and Deborah Perry, PhD and associate professor at Georgetown University, identified the Pyramid Model for Supporting Social Emotional Competence in Infants and Young Children as an overall strategy to help early childhood educators understand and implement appropriate ways to support young children with challenging behaviors. An effective workforce is, in fact, the foundation block of the Pyramid Model. They describe the Pyramid Model as providing “a tiered intervention framework of evidence‐based interventions for promoting the social, emotional and behavioral development of young children.”

At the bottom levels of the Pyramid are strategies designed for all children – nurturing and responsive relationships with adults and high quality supportive environments. All providers who work directly with children need to have the knowledge and skills to build appropriate relationships with children and families in order to create a healthy, inclusive environment for children. High quality environments for children are described as environments that include appropriate environmental design, schedules and routines, positive child guidance, engaging activities and teacher-child interactions. Early childhood educators must also offer information and support to families to create healthy home environments in which emotional development is sustained through natural routines. Some of the techniques discussed are summarized in an article in Young Children titled “The Teaching Pyramid.”

The mid-level of the Pyramid describes targeted strategies for the children who offer challenging behaviors. Partnering with families, teachers and staff focus on developing a child’s skills in self-regulation, expressing and understanding emotions, problem solving and social relationships. The webinar presenters offered several resources for locating training materials for teachers. A brief description of the training organizations is below:

At the top level of the Pyramid are individual intensive interventions, which are offered to the children with the most problematic situations. Again, the focus is on skill building with the added support of a team of specialists which may include child psychologists, social workers or therapists. Special sessions and coaching may be most effective in natural settings for children, which include the early childhood education environment as well as the home setting. It is designed to be a comprehensive support system for the child, so close work with families is critical.

Many early childhood educators face difficult, even dangerous situations every day with only their common sense and experience to guide them through the process of managing a child’s challenging behaviors. With an awareness of the problem and with a wide variety of no-cost resources available for early childhood teacher educators, we have alternatives to disenrollment. If we want to pursue the best outcomes for children and families, more education and coaching needs to be applied to these situations

This is the second article in a two-part series from Michigan State University Extension. Read Part 1 at: Disenrollment in early childhood education – Part 1: A failure of our system.

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