Reducing Exclusionary Discipline in Early Care and Education Programs: An Examination of the Arkansas Model

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Grindal, T., Chow, K., Park, C., Smith, S., & Conners Edge, N. (2023). Reducing exclusionary discipline in early care and education programs: An examination of the Arkansas model. SRI International.

Expulsion and suspension (or exclusionary discipline) in early care and education (ECE) are widely recognized as harmful to children. Numerous states have developed expulsion and suspension prevention policies through legislation or administrative rules. However, there is limited research on the implementation of state policies designed to reduce exclusionary discipline and on ECE providers’ use of program supports that could help reduce exclusionary discipline practices.

In this report, we use survey data to investigate Arkansas ECE program leaders’ and teachers’ understanding of the state’s expulsion prevention policy, their use of suspension and expulsion and their participation in professional development (PD) and other supports to meet the needs of children with challenging behavior. We also explore how teachers’ attributions of the reasons for challenging behavior predict their use of the available PD and supports. Key findings include:

  • Publicly funded programs in Arkansas (which are subject to state policy) engaged in exclusionary discipline at lower rates than non-publicly funded programs, despite reporting a higher percentage of children with challenging behavior.
  • Many Arkansas ECE program leaders were aware of the state’s expulsion prevention policy, but fewer demonstrated a strong understanding of the requirements.
  • More than three quarters of Arkansas ECE teachers reported receiving some form of PD or training on topics such as encouraging positive teacher–child interactions, promoting children’s positive behavior and helping children develop skills like managing their emotions.
  • The use of exclusionary discipline practices was related to teachers’ views of families as a reason for children’s challenging behavior.

At the end of the report, we offer recommendations based on these findings.

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