Study: Bias is a big problem in preschools

By Andrew Pillow

People have been discussing police bias a lot lately. As it turns out it may actually be a problem in pre-schools also.

According to a Yale study, teachers often watch young black boys and expect poor behavior.

The lead researcher Walter Gilliam, didn’t let the teachers he was studying know that the real goal of his research was to measure implicit bias. Teachers were essentially asked to rate the severity of behaviors from various students via video segments.

According to NPR the results yielded the expected outcomes:

"What we found was exactly what we expected based on the rates at which children are expelled from preschool programs," Gilliam says. "Teachers looked more at the black children than the white children, and they looked specifically more at the African-American boy."
Indeed, according to recent data from the U.S. Department of Education, black children are 3.6 times more likely to be suspended from preschool than white children. Put another way, black children account for roughly 19 percent of all preschoolers, but nearly half of preschoolers who get suspended.
One reason that number is so high, Gilliam suggests, is that teachers spend more time focused on their black students, expecting bad behavior. "If you look for something in one place, that's the only place you can typically find it."

In another portion of the study, teachers were given background information about the child to see if that made a difference in the way they were rated. It did.

Read more about the study and its findings here. 


Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.