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Future Hindsight is a weekly podcastthat takes big ideas in civic life and democracy and turns them into action items for everyday citizens.

Mar 4, 2021

Implicit Bias in Preschool Teachers

In a study to detect implicit bias, preschool teachers were instructed to watch a video of four young children (black and white, boy and girl) and identify potential behavioral issues. By tracking their eyes, the study showed that the teachers watched the black children more closely for behavioral problems than white children. When asked, teachers said they thought they had a gender bias and watched the two boys more closely. In fact, the defining factor was race.

Preschool Expulsion

Preschool children, ages 3 and 4, are expelled at a rate more than three times that of K-12 combined. More shockingly, they are expelled for normal, age-appropriate behavior, such as running in hallways or being rambunctious. Preschool programs are supposed to prepare children how to behave in school; instead, they often punish children who don’t know the very rules they are meant to teach. Expulsion at such a young age can have wide-ranging negative impacts on a child.

Free, universal Pre-Kindergarten offers a way to mitigate implicit bias because it would provide access to underprivileged children and create diverse learning spaces. Many preschool and childcare options today are segregated because of de-facto housing segregation. Instead of teaching different groups of children differently – whether in expensive private preschools or in low-income neighborhood programs – all children would learn the same set of standards, rules, and preparatory practices, promoting equality at an early age.

Find out more:

Walter S. Gilliam is the Elizabeth Mears and House Jameson Professor of Child Psychiatry and Psychology at the Yale University Child Study Center, as well as the Director of The Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy.

Dr. Gilliam is co-recipient of the prestigious 2008 Grawemeyer Award in Education for the coauthored book A Vision for Universal Preschool Education. His research involves early childhood education and intervention policy analysis (specifically how policies translate into effective services), ways to improve the quality of prekindergarten and child care services, the impact of early childhood education programs on children’s school readiness, and effective methods for reducing classroom behavior problems and preschool expulsion. His scholarly writing addresses early childhood care and education programs, school readiness, and developmental assessment of young children. He has led national analyses of state-funded prekindergarten policies and mandates, how prekindergarten programs are being implemented across the range of policy contexts, and the effectiveness of these programs at improving school readiness and educational achievement, as well as experimental and quasi-experimental studies on methods to improve early education quality.

Dr. Gilliam actively provides consultation to state and federal decision-makers in the U.S. and other countries and is frequently called to provide U.S. Congressional testimony and briefings on issues related to early care and education.

You can follow him on Twitter @WalterGilliam.