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Positive Behavior Intervention Supports in Early Childhood Education

Statement of Problem

More than 5,000 preschool students are expelled each year in the United States—a rate that is more than three times higher than that of K-12 students. Recent studies demonstrate that racial disparities exist in rates of expulsions and suspensions: while African American students make up 18% of preschool enrollment, they make up 42% of preschool suspensions. Without proper support during these early years, a child is more likely to drop out of school, eventually receive welfare benefits and/or commit a crime. Therefore, it is imperative that we equip early childhood educators, child care centers, and parents with the knowledge and support to foster social and emotional development in all children to ensure school readiness and future success.

The traditional strategy of individual teacher training has not always been successful in addressing the issue of suspension and expulsion, and directors and leaders of child care centers are seeking solutions. A promising model currently being implemented throughout schools in Pennsylvania is Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). “Program-wide” PBIS covers early childhood and preschool environments, and “school-wide” PBIS is implemented in K-12 schools. The key components of PBIS include providing a framework to promote social and emotional competence in all children, addressing the social-emotional and behavioral needs of children who are at risk and providing supports for those with more persistent behavioral concerns. More research is needed, however, to determine the best approach to reduce suspension and expulsion in early childhood centers.  


Next Steps

PBIS provides a feasible and effective method for child care centers to provide social and emotional support to all children in their care and reduce the use of expulsion and suspension to address behavior concerns. Because PBIS requires system-wide buy-in and implementation is a multi-year process, our goal is to give each center the tools and resources they need to reach fidelity with PBIS and sustain their efforts without outside funding. We also hope the findings from this project can help inform early childhood policy efforts to ensure every child has the opportunity to thrive in the classroom and beyond.

This project page was last updated in January 2020.

Suggested Citation

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, PolicyLab. Positive Behavior Intervention Supports in Early Childhood Education [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: plug in date accessed here].