HighScope Perry Preschool model

The HighScope Perry Preschool program, conducted from 1962 to 1967 in Ypsilanti, Michigan, was offered to African-American children from low income neighborhoods. Teachers were certified with at least a bachelor’s degree, the average child-teacher ratio was 6:1, and teachers provided weekly, 1.5 hour home visits for all participants. The HighScope Perry Preschool model encourages active learning, where children plan their own activities, carry them out, and reflect on them. Adults arrange the classroom to foster learning in various areas and coach children as the children plan activities, solve problems, and think through their ideas (PPN, SPTW).

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Increased academic achievement

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Increased high school graduation

  • Increased earnings

  • Reduced crime

  • Reduced teen pregnancy

  • Increased healthy behaviors

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is some evidence that the HighScope Perry (HSP) preschool model increases children’s academic achievement (CG-TFR Education, PPN, YG-PPP, Blueprints, Schweinhart 2013, Heckman 2010b). However, additional evidence and replication on a larger scale is needed to confirm effects.

Research following one cohort of HSP preschool students through age 50 indicates that participants have greater academic success, increased employment and earnings, reduced childhood antisocial behavior, and lower rates of crime and incarceration in adulthood than their peers (Schweinhart 2013, Heckman 2010b). These students also have healthier behaviors such as increased use of preventive health care and reduced alcohol and drug use relative to their peers (Muennig 2009, Englund 2015*). Girls, in particular, are much more likely to graduate high school (PPN), and are less likely to give birth before age 19 than non-participating peers (Blueprints). HSP boys are arrested less often as teenagers and adults, and get in fewer gang fights than non-participating peers (PPN).

The HSP approach also includes child-directed free play under the supervision of staff emphasizing the cultivation of interpersonal skills, which has been shown to improve healthy development, especially social development (Belknap 2014*). Additional research is needed to determine which HSP preschool features or combination of features (e.g., teacher training, curriculum, child assessment, services offered, etc.) support positive outcomes (Mathematica-Caronongan 2016).

A cost-benefit analysis indicates Ypsilanti’s HSP preschool yielded an average societal benefit of $6.60 for every dollar invested (Heckman 2010a*), almost a 7 times return on investment (ROI) (Schweinhart 2013).

Impact on Disparities

Likely to decrease disparities

Implementation Examples

The original HighScope Perry Preschool is no longer operating. HighScope now maintains a demonstration classroom in Ypsilanti, Michigan that features the HighScope curriculum (PPN, HighScope). The HighScope curriculum, built on the HighScope Perry Preschool model, is used in Head Start programs, as well as various public pre-kindergarten programs, and private preschools across the United States. This curriculum continues to evolve based on ongoing research (HighScope).

The HighScope Educational Research Foundation also offers training, material development, and curriculum assistance to preschool programs around the country (PPN). 

Implementation Resources

HighScope - HighScope. Inspiring educators to inspire children.

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

CG-TFR Education - The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide). Task Force Recommends (TFR) Education Programs to Promote Health Equity.

PPN - Promising Practices Network (PPN). On children, families and communities.

YG-PPP - Youth.gov (YG), Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs (IWGYP). Perry Preschool Project (PPP).

Blueprints - Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence (CSPV). Blueprints for healthy youth development.

Schweinhart 2013 - Schweinhart LJ. Long-term follow-up of a preschool experiment. Journal of Experimental Criminology. 2013;9(4):389–409.

Heckman 2010b - Heckman J, Moon SH, Pinto R, Savelyev P, Yavitz A. Analyzing social experiments as implemented: A reexamination of the evidence from the HighScope Perry Preschool Program. Quantitative Economics. 2010;1(1):1–46.

Muennig 2009 - Muennig P, Schweinhart L, Montie J, Neidell M. Effects of a prekindergarten educational intervention on adult health: 37-Year follow-up results of a randomized controlled trial. American Journal of Public Health. 2009;99(8):1431–1437.

Englund 2015* - Englund MM, White B, Reynolds AJ, Schweinhart LJ, Campbell FA. Health outcomes of the Abecedarian, Child–Parent Center, and HighScope Perry Preschool programs. In Reynolds AJ, Rolnick AJ, Temple JA, eds. Health and Education in Early Childhood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2015:257-292.

Belknap 2014* - Belknap E, Hazler R. Empty playgrounds and anxious children. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health. 2014;9(2):210–231.

Mathematica-Caronongan 2016 - Caronongan P, Kirby G, Boller K, Modlin E, Lyskawa J. Assessing the implementation and cost of high quality early care and education: A review of the literature - OPRE Report 2016-31. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (US DHHS), Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation; 2016.

Heckman 2010a* - Heckman JJ, Moon SH, Pinto R, Savelyev PA, Yavitz A. The rate of return to the HighScope Perry preschool program. Journal of Public Economics. 2010;94(1-2):114-28.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

PPN - Promising Practices Network (PPN). On children, families and communities.

HighScope - HighScope. Inspiring educators to inspire children.

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