Study Finds Implicit Racial Bias in Preschool Teachers
By Anitha Mohan
According to new research from the Yale Child Study Center, many early childhood programs demonstrate implicit bias in assessing children’s behavioral challenges and making decisions about suspension and expulsion.
The study asked early childhood teachers and administrators to watch two videos—one featuring a Black boy and girl, the other a White boy and girl—and identify challenging behavior. It found that teachers spent a disproportionate amount of time watching the Black boy. When explicitly asked which student required the most attention, 42 percent of participants said the Black boy, 34 percent the White boy, 13 percent the White girl, and 10 percent the Black girl.
The study tracks closely with recent data from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) Office for Civil Rights. According to ED’s 2013-2014 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), Black children comprise just 19 percent of those enrolled in public school pre-kindergarten but 47 percent of preschool children who receive one or more suspensions. Black boys are also more likely to be expelled than their peers. In addition to implicit bias, these children experience higher stress levels and less access to high-quality early education.
The body of evidence showing racial disparities in accessing and succeeding in early childhood programs demonstrates a strong need to review and modify federal, state, and local policies. We need to create a level playing field where all kids can access quality programs and receive equal treatment—supporting their success now and in the future. If we fail to address racial disparities, we’ll be undermining healthy development for millions of our youngest children.