Children's preschool classroom experiences and associations with early elementary special education referral
There is a growing body of research demonstrating the association between high quality preschool and improved child outcomes; however, few studies have considered special education referral as a child outcome. This study examined whether four specific aspects of the preschool classroom experience (child engagement, global classroom interaction quality, closeness and conflict in teacher-child relationships) predicted special education referral in early elementary school. Participants were 959 preschoolers in 240 classrooms across 6 states. Of the four aspects of the preschool experience explored, higher levels of conflict in the preschool teacher-child relationship related to greater special education referral in elementary school. Associations between aspects of the preschool classroom experience and special education referral were not moderated by demographic risk. These results imply that relationships play a key role in a child's preschool experience and reasons for potential conflict in teacher-child relationships should be more closely examined. (author abstract)
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