Panel Paper: Associations of Teacher Characteristics with Preschool Suspensions and Expulsions: Implications for Supports

Friday, November 9, 2018
Taft - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Erika Gaylor, Kirby A. Chow, Todd Grindal and Shari Golan, SRI International

Preschool children subjected to exclusionary discipline (e.g. suspension and expulsion) miss valuable educational opportunities and are more likely to experience academic failure and grade retention. Data indicate that exclusionary discipline is up to three times more frequent in preschool settings than in K-12 education classrooms (U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Education, 2014). The reasons for this higher use of exclusionary discipline in preschool remain unclear. Preschool teachers report being underprepared to address social emotional needs despite the fact that dealing with these issues are the teachers’ greatest concern in their classrooms (Joseph & Strain, 2003). One national survey indicates 20% of teachers’ report receiving training on promoting children’s social and emotional competence.

The current study (1) examines rates of these disciplinary actions in a public preschool program, and (2) explores whether use of these disciplinary actions varies by teacher characteristics.

Data and methods

Data are drawn from a spring 2017 survey of pre-kindergarten teachers from a state funded program serving low-income families. This survey asked teachers for information on a range of classroom practices and professional development needs. Ninety-nine of 118 (83.9%) of surveyed teachers responded to the survey and 83.9% had complete data on questions related to exclusionary discipline.

To examine whether disciplinary actions were associated with various teacher characteristics, we conducted a two-level multi-level model (MLM) with teachers nested in districts. The MLM examined whether use of one or more of these disciplinary actions was associated with years of preschool teaching experience (less than 6 years vs. more than 6 years), the number of families the teacher reported engaging in various outreach activities (most or all families vs. fewer than most families), the extent to which teachers feel a lack of support from administration and coaches (4-point scale), and the extent to which teachers feel families’ lack of engagement is negatively impacting their programs (4-point scale). The MLM controlled for teacher race/ethnicity. Disciplinary actions were coded as 1 if at least one child in their classroom was asked to leave the program, stay home for at least one day, or attend shorter days due to challenging behavior, and a 0 if no children received any of these disciplinary actions.


Approximately one third (30%) of the teachers reported that children in their classroom were asked to leave early, stay home, or leave their program due to challenging behavior during the school year.

Results of regression analyses showed that preschool teachers with six or more years of experience were 76% less likely to suspend/expel preschool children, and teachers who reported engaging most or all their student’s families were 70% less likely to use these disciplinary actions. No other teacher characteristics predicted use of these disciplinary actions.


The presentation will discuss how this information has been used by state department of education administrators to inform teacher preparation efforts. We will also discuss how understanding which teachers are more likely to use exclusionary discipline can help policy makers to target interventions strategies to those teachers most in need.