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Arkansas preschool intervention program sees high demand

April 9, 2018

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A new state intervention program designed to eliminate Arkansas preschool suspensions and expulsions served almost triple the number of children initially predicted in its first year.

The state Department of Human Services’ BehaviorHelp Response System has served nearly 265 children at more than 170 pre-kindergarten centers since 2016, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported .

“It has been really exciting to see the response, to hear from the teachers as to how we’ve been able to help them to help the children,” said Arlene Rose, an official at the department’s Child Care and Early Childhood Education Division.

Federal brochures have cited Arkansas as a success story in requiring all publicly funded child-care facilities to seek state intervention before suspending or expelling a child.

Child care providers report to the division when a student has reached a critical point via the online Behavior Help system. A specialist at the division will contact the provider within 48 hours to assess the situation. The specialist will then choose an intervention response, which can range from online behavior-modification training to intensive on-site evaluation.

The consultant also observes classroom layout and curriculum. Solutions can include providing more toys or instituting more of a routine.

The department found that about 4 percent of the children referred to the program in its first year were expelled after specialists attempted intervention methods.

The top reported issue was a child “hurting others,” followed by difficulty with routines and paying attention.

Identifying what’s behind the misbehavior is essential to identifying a solution, said Rose.

Trauma from foster care or parental divorce was most commonly linked to children referred for expulsion or suspension, according to the department’s data.

Preschool expulsion and suspensions are more likely to lead to high school dropout, academic failure, negative school attitudes and incarceration, said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services experts.

Rose said the decline of suspensions and expulsions will have a long-term impact throughout children’s lives.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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