There are important benefits when young children are exposed to racial and ethnic diversity. This project will help facilitate a discussion of the importance of diversity in early childhood and support professional development of early childhood educators for diverse settings.
Among sweepting demographic change in the United States, children of color now comprise the majority of the nationwide population under age five. However, the national dialogue regarding race and civil rights is polarized. In a survey of more than 500 high school principals, UCLA's Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access found that "in the age of Trump, America's high schools are greatly impacted by rising political incivility and division," with more than 80% of principals reporting their firsthand observation of student-initiated derogatory statements about others of different racial or ethnic groups.
In the midst of this social and demographic upheaval, Penn State’s Center for Education and Civil Rights (CECR) presents data illustrating the current segregation of preschool children. After reviewing updated data on segregation trends, we outline a pathtoward preschool integration in an effort to tackle racial division at a critical time in the development of young children who, beginning at age two, “use race to interpret observed behavior and choose playmates.” Drawing on 2015–16 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), this report analyzes 1.58 million children in 29,186 public educational institutions enrolling at least one preschool student. Comprising nearly 20% of all three- and four-year-olds in the country, CRDC data illustrate the varied racial composition of preschool students between states as a result of demographic differences and state policies supporting public preschool opportunities.
Paying closer attention to preschool diversity could help to lay the foundation for students from all backgrounds to play and learn together across racial and economic lines, yet a new study reveals that many children in school-based preschool programs do not have the opportunity for such cross-racial learning experiences.
Erica Frankenberg shared findings about the extent to which preschool students are in racially diverse educational settings in a research report titled “Segregation at an Early Age," released through Penn State’s Center for Education and Civil Rights (CECR) in conjunction with The National Coalition on School Diversity. The report drew on Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) from 2013-14, analyzing 27,957 public schools that enrolled 1.43 million preschool students. The report includes information about the extent of segregation nationally along with an appendix containing state-level analysis. Erica is co-director of CECR.