Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Education Specialist (Ed.S.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Linda M. Raffaele Mendez, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Robert Dedrick, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Brenda L. Townsend Walker, Ph.D., J.D.


special education, grade retention, school suspension, disproportionality


Research suggests that how teachers perceive the behavior of individual children in the early years of elementary school has important implications for the school success of those youth over time (Darney et al., 2013; Hibel et al., 2010; Jimerson et al., 1997; Reinke et al., 2008). This may be because children who are of concern to teachers are often identified for practices such as grade retention and/or special education placement. Although these practices are intended to help children, they have not been shown to be associated with long-term positive outcomes. Rather, youth who are subject to these practices experience negative outcomes more often than their peers, including lower academic achievement, higher rates of exclusionary discipline, and lower rates of high school graduation (Darney et al., 2013; Sullivan & Bal, 2013; Stearns et al., 2007). From an educational equity standpoint, it is important to understand how early elementary teacher concerns are related to outcomes over time for children from different demographic groups. It may be that teacher concerns regarding behavior for some children (e.g., boys, children from minority backgrounds, poor children) are more likely to lead to educational practices (e.g., special education, retention) that have been associated with poor outcomes for youth. The purpose of the current study was to examine how early elementary teacher behavior ratings were related to long-term outcomes for youth and whether those relationships were similar for youth of different races, gender, and socioeconomic statuses (SES). Three research questions were posed: (1) Do teacher behavior ratings in kindergarten and first grade predict special education placement and/or grade retention by fifth grade and/or school suspension by eighth grade? (2) To what extent are the relationships between these variables moderated by student gender, race, and/or SES? (3) To what extent are special education placement, grade retention, and school suspension related to each other? Archival data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Kindergarten Cohort of 1998 (ECLS-K) were used to answer these questions. Results showed that teacher perceptions of behavior problems in early elementary school significantly predicted all three aforementioned outcomes. Of the various teacher-perceived behavior problems measured, approaches to learning (e.g., paying attention, being organized) was the most predictive. Black students with teacher-perceived weak approaches to learning were at higher risk than their White peers with weak approaches to learning for being retained and suspended. Additionally, female students with perceived weak approaches to learning were more likely to be retained than their male peers with weak approaches to learning. Special education, grade retention, and school suspension outcomes were weakly correlated with each other. The weak correlations among these outcomes suggests that youth who are perceived to be behaviorally at risk can potentially be on different paths that lead them to experience different long-term outcomes. Implications for educators, researchers, and policymakers are discussed.