NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 18, 2005

Preschool children are three times more likely to be expelled than children in kindergarten through 12th grade, according to researchers from the Yale Child Study Center.

Researchers surveyed 4,815 state-financed prekindergarten classrooms and found that the preschool expulsion rate was 6.7 per 1,000 children compared to the 2.1 expulsion per 1,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Preschool expulsion rates vary widely by state and type of setting, say the researchers:

  • Boys are expelled at 4.5 times the rate of girls.
  • African-Americans at twice the rate of Latinos and Caucasians.
  • Four-year-olds at 1.5 times the rate of three-year-olds.

Furthermore, expulsion rates are lower in public schools and Head Start, and highest in faith-affiliated centers, for-profit child care and other community-based child-care settings.

"What the data tells us, as does the show 'Supernanny,' is that there are a lot of out-of-control kids out there," says Karen Hill-Scott, a California expert on children's development and their readiness for school.

Hill-Scott says it was not surprising that expulsion rates in preschool were higher than those in later grades, since schools are legally obligated to educate children in kindergarten through 12th grade, while prekindergarten programs are not required to retain disruptive children.

The study is the first of its kind, so it is difficult to determine if expulsion rates are increasing, but longtime preschool directors have seen a sharp rise since the 1970s in the number of children with behavioral problems. "In a school of 150 kids, you might have one or two kids with behavior problems, but now it may be up to 10 percent," says Susan Glaser, an educational psychologist and preschool director.

Given the number of enrollments nationally, 5,000 preschool children are estimated to be expelled each year, says the Yale Child Study Center.

Source: Lewin, Tamar, "Research Finds a High Rate Of Expulsions in Preschool," The New York Times, May 17, 2005; based upon: Walter S. Gilliam, PhD., "Prekindergarteners Left Behind: Expulsion Rates in State Prekindergarten Systems," Yale University Child Study Center, May 4, 2005.

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