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Kicked Out Of Pre-K?

When you think of an expelled student, you probably picture an unruly teenager causing mischief in the high school hallway.

But guess what? A new study says preschoolers, just 3 and 4 years old, are far more likely to be kicked out of their pre-K programs. It's a problem very much in need of attention from both educators and parents.

A researcher in the study, Dr. Walter Gilliam, an assistant professor at Yale University Child Study Center, says, "We found that children in pre-school programs were literally...more than three times as likely to be expelled as children in the kindergarten through grade 12 years."

The study, "Pre-kindergartners Left Behind: Expulsion Rates in State Prekindergarten Systems," reports on expulsion rates by program setting (public school, Head Start, private providers), gender, and race/ethnicity. It also presents expulsion data from all 40 states that fund prekindergarten programs.

The study also found that when teachers had access to a behavioral consultant in the classroom, expulsion rates were cut in half, Gilliam says. But few pre-Ks are able to offer that amenity.

At Kangaroo's Korner, every effort is made to keep pre-schoolers in school. Founder and president Catherine Risigo-Wickline says, "If we can look at where a child is functioning, and not put that child into our curriculum, but rather design our curriculum to meet that child's needs, you get away from kids getting frustrated because they can't do that activity or are bored because the activity is not challenging enough."

Dr. Robin Goodman, a psychologist specializing in children and family issues, tells The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler two reasons that expulsion rates are so high are:

  • It is not mandatory for children to be in pre-school, so they can easily be expelled.
  • Teachers are not necessarily trained to manage children who behave differently from the rest of the group.
  • "There are lots of pressures on the kids to perform a certain way," she says, adding that some kids are not quite ready for too much structure.

    "That's why it is called pre-school," Goodman says. "That's what you do in pre-school: Learn to have fun, follow routines, listen to authority, get along with other kids, find out how to manage their behavior. That's why they're there. You shouldn't have to know that already to get there."

    So how can parents ensure their children will succeed before they even hit kindergarten?

    Here are some of her suggestions:

    • Parents and teachers need to share their expectations.
    • Parents and teachers need to understand what's reasonable for children at that age.
    • Understand that boys and girls have different developmental paths (e.g. girls' verbal development is ahead of that of boys) and, hence, they have different ways of interacting, expressing themselves, and behaving.
    • Teachers and parents should see each other as allies to develop positive students who grow up to be contributing members of society.

    Goodman says playing the blame game is not the way to go, not is it to label the child as "a problem."

    Here is why:

    • It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
    • Teachers and parents can be reinforcing the bad behavior unwittingly.
    • Expulsion can delay getting help or make matters worse.
    • Younger kids with poor attitudes about school can grow to become older kids with bad attitudes and adults who continue to fail.

    Hopefully, you'll feel comfortable enough with the teacher so you can work together. But if not, you should seek outside help.

    "Get somebody else to observe; get somebody to give you some parenting tips," Goodman says. "Maybe there are things that you can do at home that you can suggest to the teacher, or you can have that consultant then consult to the school and look at the entire situation to find out what's better."

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