Does implicit bias begin in preschool? Yes, says new study.

How do we get all students going in the right direction?
RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

A new study out of the Yale Child Study Center within the Yale School of Medicine reveals the role of “implicit bias” in how teachers view preschoolers. Race of teachers and students play a role but in ways that may surprise you.

“Implicit bias is like the wind. You can’t see it but you can sure see its effect. It does not begin with black men and police; it begins with preschool,” said Walter S. Gilliam, director of the Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy and associate professor of child psychiatry and psychology at the Yale Child Study Center, in a press call with reporters Monday

A leader in the field whose work on preschool expulsions is widely cited, Gilliam said preschool is the best early frontline defense against the negative impacts of implicit bias.

“What is disturbing to us is our early childhood settings are not immune to the same racial disparities that plague our K-12 settings,” said Linda Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Childhood Development, Administration for Children and Families, Dept. of Health and Human Services, in the media call.

 

Here is the official release:

A first-of-its-kind research study has found that preschool teachers and staff show signs of implicit bias in administering discipline, but the race of the teacher plays a big role in the outcome.

The research, by the Yale Child Study Center within the Yale School of Medicine, used sophisticated eye-tracking technology and found that preschool teachers “show a tendency to more closely observe blacks and especially black boys when challenging behaviors are expected.”

But at the same time, black teachers hold black students to a higher standard of behavior than do their white counterparts, the researchers found. While the study did not explore why this difference in attitude exists, the researchers speculated that black educators may be demonstrating “a belief that black children require harsh assessment and discipline to prepare them for a harsh world.”

White educators, by contrast, may be acting on a stereotype that black preschoolers are more likely to misbehave in the first place, so they judge them against a different, more lenient standard than what they’re applying to white children.

Discipline data collected from the nation’s public schools shows that black and Latino students are suspended and expelled at much higher rates than white students “so we set out to examine whether implicit biases in early education staff may be a contributory factor,” observed Dr. Walter S. Gilliam, Director of The Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy and Associate Professor of Child Psychiatry and Psychology at the Yale Child Study Center.

“The tendency to base classroom observation on the gender and race of the child may explain in part why those children are more frequently identified as misbehaving and hence why there is a racial disparity in discipline,” added Gilliam, one of five researchers who conducted what is thought to be the first such study of its type.

The Yale researchers noted prior studies have established that implicit biases are pervasive across all people and institutions of society. In the education setting, previous research has established that expulsions and suspensions often are based on adult decisions rather than actual child behaviors, raising questions about whether the adult teachers and staff come to the classroom with an implicit bias about boys and children of color.

The new research, conducted in 2015, applied a sophisticated methodology that included eye-tracking of 132 early childhood staff, most of whom were classroom teachers. On average, the study participants had 11 years of professional experience.

The two-part study included a session watching videos of classroom behavior while eye-tracking equipment determined which children they were observing, with the educators being told only that the researchers were interested in learning how quickly and accurately the teachers could detect challenging behavior. They then watched a total of 12 clips, each 30 seconds long, featuring a black boy, black girl, white boy and white girl. No challenging behavior actually was depicted in the videos.

implicit-bias-infographic-2

Yale Child Study Center

In the second part of the research, educators read different vignettes detailing instances of misbehavior in the classroom. The researchers manipulated the race and gender of the children in each vignette by using different names for perceived black and white children, such as DeShawn versus Jake. After reading each vignette, the educators were asked to rate the severity of the misbehavior on a five-point scale and also to rate the likelihood that they would recommend suspension or expulsion.

The first part of the study showed the educators spent far more time gazing at black students compared to white students when the teachers expected challenging behaviors to occur. Black educators spent much more time gazing specifically at black boys. The vignette responses found that “white early education staff rated the severity of behavior more leniently for black children while black staff rated the severity of behavior more harshly for black children.”

The report noted that white teachers appeared to be acting on a stereotype that black preschoolers as a group were more likely to engage in challenging classroom behavior, “so a vignette about a black child with challenging classroom behaviors is not appraised as being unusual or severe.”

Interestingly, when teachers were told a child faced a challenging home life that might explain their behavior, the teacher responses also depended on race. When the races of the child and teacher matched, the teachers became more empathetic and rated the misbehavior less severely. But when the races differed, the teachers rated the behaviors more severe and appeared to become overwhelmed by having to factor in the home stressors and viewed the misbehavior as being more hopeless.

“We think it’s pretty clear that stereotype biases may account for the differences we observed in where early educators place their attention inside the classroom,” noted Gilliam. “We also know that implicit bias can be reduced through proper training and should be a core component of early childhood teacher education.

“The field of early education is based on efforts to give all children the best chance to achieve their potential,” Gilliam continued. “Early educators are our nation’s frontline defense against the harmful effects of implicit biases. The fact these early educators chose to participate in this study even after they were later told that we were examining their biases speaks volumes about the courage and values of these professionals, who are so under-paid and under-supported in the important work they do for our children.”

The Yale research is part of a broad effort to understand why African-American and Latino students, as well as children with disabilities, are suspended or expelled at highly disproportionate rates compared to white children. The U.S. Department of Education recently reported that black children make up only 19 percent of preschool enrollment but comprise 47 percent of preschoolers suspended one or more times.

The Yale research also was undertaken at a time when local, state and federal governments are paying increased attention to the accessibility and quality of preschool classes for the very young. President Barack Obama launched the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative two years ago to address opportunity gaps facing boys of color and earlier this summer, the House Appropriations Committee recommended an increase in federal funding for Head Start and other early education programs. New York City is about to enter the second year of its “Pre-K For All” program and in Virginia, the state is supporting a Pre-School Initiative to provide early education to at-risk 4-year-olds who aren’t served by Head Start.

Reader Comments 0

17 comments
Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

"Implicit bias is like the wind.  You can't see it...."


Sorta tells you all you need to know about this so-called "research".


So, black kids comprise 13% of all preschoolers, but 47% of all suspensions.   I would submit that in order to get SUSPENDED from PRESCHOOL, the behavior has to be extremely bad.  Instead of focusing on the BEHAVIOR, the researchers focus on the teacher.


Typical politically correct logic.


If they had focused on the behavior and the root causes thereof, they might have come to the conclusion that having an illegitimacy rate of 75% in the black community, kids growing up with no father and no family structure, is a major contributing cause to this bad behavior.


Enough with this "it takes a village" BS.  No, it does not.  It takes two responsible adults who take their role as parents seriously.


It is going to take a lot of hard work to undue 50 years of bad public policy that contributed to this sorry state of affairs.  Much easier to blame the invisible, non-existent "inherent bias".

CardiganBoy
CardiganBoy

@Lee_CPA2  Great post.  Disruptive kids in the classroom are coming from a dysfunctional home environment.  That home environment is tied directly to disadvantage.  Identify the root causes for the disadvantage and you can address the problem effectively.


From your post (above).  It pretty much says it all.


"Implicit bias is like the wind.  You can't see it...."


Sorta tells you all you need to know about this so-called "research".


Charter schools  are addressing the problem constructively.  It's a long process.  The road to success starts with their students.


The liberal hogwash disseminated on blogs like this one on a daily basis is patronizing and counter-productive.

RetiredEducator
RetiredEducator

Another possible explanation for the data showing black pre-school teachers hold black students to a higher standard of behavior -- they know which behaviors enable school success and they want black students to succeed.  After 32 years in public education, I know implicit bias is real.  In this case, perhaps the bias has a more positive than negative effect.

redweather
redweather

"But at the same time, black teachers hold black students to a higher standard of behavior than do their white counterparts, the researchers found. While the study did not explore why this difference in attitude exists, the researchers speculated that black educators may be demonstrating 'a belief that black children require harsh assessment and discipline to prepare them for a harsh world.'” 

Maybe, and then again maybe they feel they can discipline black children without fear of being accused of race-based bias. Just a thought.

Starik
Starik

Rather than decrying the disparate numbers of suspensions, arrests, prison sentences why not spend the time and energy in improving the behavior of young blacks?  Not all of them, but whatever percentage of them is misbehaving.

Zephan Wshngtn
Zephan Wshngtn

@Starik I disagree with your analysis. Black children don't cut up or act out any more differently or more often than white children. They're just more like than not to be punished for every event; no matter how small, minor, non-existing and/or made up. 

HokeSmyth
HokeSmyth

All we need to do is throw a few more millions (maybe billions) of dollars, and do a hundred more studies.

Astropig
Astropig

This reads like a slam on pre school teachers.I'm not sure if they'll be upset to read it,but they should be .


This looks like the author took a blank canvas,fired an arrow into it and drew a careful bullseye around where it landed.In other words,they had an idea that could only be proven by asking certain things a certain way and ignoring all other info that didn't jibe with their carefully drawn pre-dispositions.

Here is a stereotype to debunk also. Anyone ever try to watch a movie in a theater with a largely Black audience? Those darn stereotypes won't go away.

redweather
redweather

Unscientific anecdotal observation alert! 

Having spent a fair amount of time in front of a classroom of college students, my eyes are much more likely to track students who . . . drum roll . . . make eye contact with me. This is so whether the students are black, white, etc. The students I try to avoid looking at are females showing (IMHO) too darn much cleavage.

What you refer to as a "stereotype" is actually  factual. Black children are suspended at a disproportional rate because they misbehave AT THAT RATE! That is a fact and not  a stereotype. In adulthood the same is true for criminal behavior. They commit violent crimes at the same disproportional rate and therefore come in contact with law enforcement at that rate. All the studies and accusations of racism won't change those facts.

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

Implicit bias in preschooel - yeah, that's what needs taking care of!

From an article in Monday's Wall Street Journal about the jump in murder rates last year:

"Murders in the U.S. jumped 10.8% in 2015, according to figures released Monday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation—a sharp increase that could fuel concerns that the nation’s two-decade trend of falling crime may be ending.

The figures had been expected to rise, after preliminary data released earlier this year indicated violent crime and murders were climbing. But the double-digit increase in murders dwarfed any of the past 20 years, in which the biggest one-year jump was 3.7% in 2005.

·….

Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said a key driver of the jump in murders may be increasing distrust of police in major cities where controversial officer shootings of African-American residents have led to protests.

Members of minority and poor communities may be more reluctant to talk to police and help them solve crimes, part of the “Ferguson effect”—a term used by law-enforcement officials referring to the aftermath of the killing of an unarmed, black 18-year-old man in Ferguson, Mo., by a policeman in 2014.

Some law-enforcement officials, including FBI Director James Comey, have said that since the Ferguson shooting and protests, some officers may be more reluctant to get out of their patrol cars and engage in the kind of difficult work that reduces street crime, out of fear they may be videotaped and criticized publicly.

“This rise is concentrated in certain large cities where police-community tensions have been notable,’’ said Mr. Rosenfeld, citing Cleveland, Baltimore, and St. Louis as examples. The increase isn’t spread evenly around America, he pointed out, but centered on big cities with large black populations.

In all, there were 15,696 instances of murder and nonnegligence manslaughter in the U.S. last year, the FBI said.

The crime rise in such a short period of time eliminates possible causes like economic struggles or changing demographics, Mr. Rosenfeld said.

Beyond that, the new figures show a growing racial disparity in who gets killed in America.

Nationally, the murder of black Americans outpaces that of whites—7,039 African-Americans were killed last year, compared with 5,854 whites, according to the data. The races of the remaining victims is unknown because not all police departments report it.

Across the U.S., 13% of Americans identify solely as African-American and 77% identify solely as white."

PJ25
PJ25

Another liberal white guilt study.  

pfe010101
pfe010101

Are you kidding me

 "While the study did not explore why this difference in attitude exists, the researchers speculated that black educators may be demonstrating “a belief that black children require harsh assessment and discipline to prepare them for a harsh world.”

Non-black educators don't discipline black kids unless they have no other choice because they are terrified the NAACP, ACLU, SCLC, BLM, Nation of Islam, CNBC and other "activists" will be all over them in a heartbeat claiming racism and discrimination.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@pfe010101 Research does not support your contention that non-black educators don't impose discipline on black students.

In a study of Southern states, blacks are only 24 percent of students enrolled in public schools but  were 48 percent of students suspended, 49 percent of students expelled. 

http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/08/25/434650842/study-tracks-vast-racial-gap-in-school-discipline-in-13-southern-states

A study released earlier this year found black students are more likely to be expelled or suspended when their teachers are white. The study found the more times a black student is matched with a black teacher, the less likely that student is to be suspended.

https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2016/02/22/teacher-perceptions-and-race/


Most teachers are white in the South -- upwards of 77 percent on average. Clearly, they are suspending black students when you look at the high suspension rates. 

Federal data tracks the race of teachers. It is 85 percent in Va, 76 percent in Georgia, 84 percent in North Carolina, 78 percent in Alabama, 74 in Louisana, 73 in Miss., 81 in South Carolina .


https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/sass/tables/sass1112_2013314_t1s_001.asp

MotocrossSurvivor
MotocrossSurvivor

"While the study did not explore why this difference in attitude exists, the researchers speculated that black educators may be demonstrating “a belief that black children require harsh assessment and discipline to prepare them for a harsh world.”

White educators, by contrast, may be acting on a stereotype that black preschoolers are more likely to misbehave in the first place, so they judge them against a different, more lenient standard than what they’re applying to white children."
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So once again, the whites are demonized.  No surprise.  White teachers can't win regardless.  They walk on eggshells fearing they will be accused of mistreating the black kids if they discipline them as they do the white kids, so they ease off.  And doing so, they are accused of racism because it is "speculated" that they are showing bias and assume "well, blacks are just naturally prone to misbehave."  On the other other, the black teachers have the halo treatment applied for the harsh treatment because they have to "prepare them for a harsh world," meaning of course the harsh WHITE world full of evil white racists.  Bottom line: dealing with blacks is TROUBLE any way you slice it.  Ever wonder why people try and avoid them?

GuyCrouchback
GuyCrouchback

Yes, of course. Gross disruptive behavior in the classroom paired with a continual refusal to learn ... is just an illusion.

Want to bet these professors all send their own kids to elite private schools?