Preschool children in the United States are expelled at approximately three times the rate of children in K-12, and boys and students of color are suspended at disproportionate rates. Exclusion from school beginning in preschool can have many negative long-term educational, health, and social consequences. In order to help improve outcomes for young children in New Mexico, Pegasus Legal Services for Children is working to promote best practices among early childhood educators related to challenging behaviors and increase access to behavioral support programs. Behavior consultation for educators decreases the likelihood of preschool exclusion, which in turns fosters positive outcomes for children.
In partnership with the UNM Cradle to Career Policy Institute and the Senior Education Policy Analyst for the City of Albuquerque, Pegasus has presented at several conferences this spring on the results of our survey of New Mexico’s early care and education providers. The groundbreaking survey we conducted last year indicated that more than two thirds of early educators welcome increased access to early childhood mental health specialists to visit classrooms and provide individualized support, as well as group trainings on how to support young children’s social-emotional development. The survey found that challenging behaviors are common in early learning environments in New Mexico, with more than 70% of early childhood providers noting that persistent hyperactive behaviors, violent behaviors, and refusal to cooperate are fairly or very common. About 25% of preschoolers present challenging behaviors, and about 33% of providers had to disenroll at least one child due to challenging behaviors in the preceding year. While 68% of providers indicated that access to early childhood mental health consultations could help their difficulties in the classroom, most of the providers had never received such a consultation.
Pegasus continues to research national best practices to reduce suspension and expulsion in preschool, promote expansion of behavioral consultations for early childhood environments, and partner with organizations and agencies in the state to support preschoolers in New Mexico.
The full report regarding the survey is available here: http://ccpi.unm.edu/sites/default/files/publications/Suspension%20and%20Expulsion%20Final%20Report.pdf