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The HighScope Educational Research Foundation (known as HighScope or High/Scope) studies methods of early childhood education based on the methods of the 1962 Perry Preschool study.[1] It was founded in 1970 by psychologist David Weikart.

The Perry Preschool study has been noted for its "large effects on educational attainment, income, criminal activity, and other important life outcomes, sustained well into adulthood".[2][3]

The philosophy behind HighScope is based on child development theory and research, originally drawing on the work of Jean Piaget and John Dewey.[4] The curriculum was further developed to incorporate Lev Vygotsky's zone of proximal development and Jerome Bruner's related strategy of adult scaffolding. This method emphasizes the role of adults to support each child at their current developmental level and help them build upon it under a model of "shared control," where activities are both child-initiated and adult-guided.[5][6] The adults working with the children see themselves more as facilitators or partners, rather than as managers or supervisors.

Original study[edit]

The original study was conducted from 1962-1967 in Ypsilanti, Michigan under the guidance of psychologist David Weikart and Perry Elementary School principal Charles Eugene Beatty.[1][7] It was intended to boost the cognitive skills of 123 disadvantaged African American children with low IQs.[3][8]

Families were randomly assigned to one of two groups: the intervention and a control group. For 2 years during the regular school year (39 weeks a year), 3-4 year old children would come to a classroom for 2 and a half hours a day. Students worked on projects where "they planned tasks, they executed tasks, and then they reviewed the tasks collectively."[3] The intervention also included weekly visits by the teachers to the homes of the children for about 1.5 hours per visit to improve parent-child interactions at home.[9]


By the time children were 10, there wasn't much of a difference in how children in the two groups performed on tests of cognitive ability.

Because the study was conducted in the 1960s, researchers have been able to follow the children who went through the Perry Preschool Program through adulthood. Economist and Nobel laureate James Heckman has found that adults from the treatment group were "much more likely to graduate high school, much more likely to make earnings, much more likely to go on to college, much less likely to commit crime."[3] At age 19, 67% of the preschool group graduated high school, compared to only 49% of the control group. 59% of the preschool group was employed, and 32% of the control group. Within the preschool group, 38% went to pursued higher education, while only 21% of the control group did. There was a 20 percentage point difference between the two groups in regards to having ever been detained or arrested (31% for the preschool group, 51% for the control).[10]

Heckman also found multigenerational benefits of the program: children of participants in the program appear to have benefitted. According to Heckman, "We find some very strong effects. The children of the participants are healthier. The children of the participants are also earning more. They have better social and emotional skills, are more likely to graduate high school and go on to college, less likely to engage in the criminal justice system, so they're less likely to be incarcerated or even have ever been arrested."[3]


Heckman finds that the work with the parents was an important distinguishing component of the program, particularly because the parents stay in the children's lives beyond the program's 2-year duration. He also finds that the quality of the teachers (and consequently the expense of the program) was a critical component that allowed it to succeed in comparison with other, less expensive interventions.[3]

Due to the results, the organization Social Projects that Work finds the study as a strong candidate for further research, but warns that the study was relatively small (128 subjects; 123 after dropouts).[2]


James Heckman estimates that the Perry Project saved society $7 to $12 for every $1 invested, mostly due to reduced crime.[11][12] HighScope itself reports that for every tax dollar invested in the early care and education program, $7 are saved for taxpayers by the time the participant is 27 years old, $13 are saved for tax payers by the time the participant is 40 years old, and that there is a $16 total return including increased income to the participants.[13][14] See also Heckman, Moon, Pinto, Savelyev, & Yavitz (2010a, b).[15][16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Our History". HighScope. 4 January 2018. Retrieved 2019-06-04.
  2. ^ a b "Perry Preschool Project - Social Preschool Programs that Work". Social Programs that Work. Retrieved 2019-06-04.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "What's Not On The Test: The Overlooked Factors That Determine Success". NPR.org. Retrieved 2019-06-04.
  4. ^ Hohmann and Weikart. "Educating Young Children: Active Learning Practices for Preschool and Child Care Programs [Excerpt from Educating Young Children (pages 13-41), a curriculum guide from High/Scope Educational Research Foundation]" (PDF). Retrieved 4 June 2019.[verification needed]
  5. ^ Epstein, A. S. Essentials of active learning in preschool. HighScope Press, 2007
  6. ^ Miller, Linda; Pound, Linda (2010-12-10). "Chapter 7: The HighScope Approach". Theories and Approaches to Learning in the Early Years. SAGE. pp. 101–104. ISBN 9781446210239.
  7. ^ "Rice University School Literacy and Culture -- High/Scope Perry Preschool Study". centerforeducation.rice.edu. Retrieved 2019-06-04.
  8. ^ Spring, Joel H. (2018). American education (18th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-138-08723-1. OCLC 982653058.
  9. ^ The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study Through Age 40 (pp. 194–215), by Lawrence J. Schweinhart, Jeanne Montie, Zongping Xiang, W. Steven Barnett, Clive R. Belfield, & Milagros Nores, 2005, Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Press. © 2005 by High/Scope® Educational Research Foundation.
  10. ^ Spring, Joel H. (2021). American education. ISBN 978-0-367-55140-7. OCLC 1227865090.
  11. ^ Nelson, Libby (2014-07-30). "The big benefit of pre-K might not be education". Vox. Retrieved 2019-06-04.
  12. ^ Heckman, James J.; Moon, Seong Hyeok; Pinto, Rodrigo; Savelyev, Peter A.; Yavitz, Adam (2010). "The Rate of Return to the High/Scope Perry Preschool Program". Journal of Public Economics. 94 (1–2): 114–128. doi:10.1016/j.jpubeco.2009.11.001. PMC 3145373. PMID 21804653.
  13. ^ An Economic Analysis of the Ypsilanti Perry Preschool Project,(Monographs of High/Scope Educ. Res. Found., No 5), C. U. Webber, Phillips Foster, David Weikart, 1978
  14. ^ Sparks, P., & Schweinhart, L., "Audio news briefing on the HighScope Perry Preschool Study age 40" Archived 2013-05-21 at the Wayback Machine, 2004
  15. ^ "Analyzing Social Experiments as Implemented: A Reexamination of the Evidence from the HighScope Perry Preschool Program" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-01-14.
  16. ^ "The Rate of Return to the High/Scope Perry Preschool Program" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-01-14.


  • Hohmann, M., Weikart, D., & Epstein, A. S. (2008). Educating young children (3rd ed.). Ypsilanti, MI: HighScope Press.
  • "What Is the History of HighScope?" - Provided by YMCA Child Care Services
  • Schweinhart, L. J., Barnes, H. V., & Weikart, D. P. (1993). Significant benefits: The HighScope Perry Preschool Study through age 27. Ypsilanti, MI: HighScope Press.
  • Schweinhart, L. J., Montie, J., Xiang, Z., Barnett, W. S., Belfield, C. R., & Nores, M. (2004). Lifetime effects: The HighScope Perry Preschool Study through age 40. Ypsilanti, MI: HighScope Press. (Freely available summary version)

External links[edit]