Reasons Why Kids Get Expelled From Pre-School

Back in May, The Baltimore Sun printed a story later picked up in the Evansville Courier about a Child Study Center at Yale that says more than three times as many children are expelled from preschool than from kindergarten through twelfth grade.


With the 4th over, and we turn the corner on summer and begin to think about school again, studies like these become interesting as we search for childcare.


Apparently nationwide, children are being expelled from pre-K programs at a rate of one to four students for every ten classes. That means if there are twelve children per preschool class, ten classes together would expel four of those children.


As a reporter for the National Media Service, I was one of the reporters at that press conference. [Interesting that the Courier and Press had to go to Baltimore to get the story when they could have gotten the story from a local reporter.] I listened to what the Yale professors said with my pencil and my heart. As a preschool teacher who occasionally teaches some of these expelled students right here in Evansville , I cringed when I heard: “We know very young children are being expelled, but we don’t know why.”


My knee jerk response to the experts was, "Huh? Why don't you know why?"


“Round up all the usual suspects.”  The blame, as usual, went to a lack of national standards for preschools. If only, they lamented, there were a standardized curriculum for children beginning at say birth and going through high school, we probably wouldn’t have any problems. It would be a package deal right for any child.


That’s ridiculous. In California, children can’t be expelled from preschool because the same standards hold for children pre-K through 12th grade. Their one to four per 120 make their education policies look absolutely heroic. But at the same time, California state administrators can’t find teachers; there’s a desperate shortage. Who wants to work in an environment where children are allowed to assault you and you can’t even use the word “no.” If you know that child who hurts the whole classroom is going to be in your care and you have no authority to stop him, you won’t last long.


Another usual suspect is teacher training or lack of it. Childcare provider pay and preschool teacher pay is at the bottom of the pay scale. Once again few people will stay in a field that pays minimum wage, has no benefits and no job promotion. When you train a preschool teacher, she usually ends up running for her life.


Once a month, I get calls where I work at the Garden School from desperate parents. Their child has been expelled from someplace they were told was just simply wonderful, but somehow wonderland failed, and they want to know if our school will take the child.


More often than not, these children are as desperate as their parents. They have been confined to tiny rooms with as many as thirty undisciplined children who are cared for by an untrained person in the minimum pay bracket who can't say "no." That's what we used to call chaos and is now called undirected play. There, in that classroom, little or no curriculum exists. There are few toys, and no teacher directed activities, because untrained teachers either don't care or don't know what to do.


So what about the children?  More often than not, when an expelled child is given a little mental and physical stimulation, he settles down.  Normally, it doesn’t take more than a first morning to settle down a child who has simply been bored to death in a confined space. Most of the expelled children I’ve seen over the years are exceptionally bright and creative.  


The big question that was not answered in the press conference was why more four year olds are more likely than three year olds to be expelled. No one knew. But the answer is simple. A three year old has not developed a habit of poor behavior. Curbing a three year old is a lot easier than a four year old who has practiced his little crimes again and again.


People can talk about children's plight under the umbrella of sophisticated standardization into childcare and still come up empty handed. The truth of the matter is still hiding in the storage closet with the old hats.


Look at nature; nature gave children to families one at a time. Therefore national standards that dictate curriculums, schemes, or standards for children under the age of reason are an unknowing attempt to regulate what can't be regulated.


Children need small, loving environments that ditto what good homes offer. They need space and time and something called affection.