Assessing the Evaluations of Early Childhood Education Programs

Chapter 16 - The High/Scope Perry Preschool Project
Introduction to the Original Evaluation (Excerpt)

The High/Scope Perry Preschool Project, which operated in Ypsilanti, Michigan between 1962 and 1967, sought to break the cycle of poverty and school failure by providing a combination of home visits and a part-time preschool program to three- and four-year-olds. The evaluation of the High/Scope Perry Preschool Project was a pioneering effort to evaluate rigorously the long-term impact of an early childhood education program. Not only did the project's creators implement a program highly regarded by developmental experts, but they also thought ahead to do so in a way that would be conducive to later experimentation, following program participants into the late-1990s and early 2000s, through age forty. Additionally, it was included in the Consortium Study (see chapter 4), which statistically combined findings from selected early childhood education programs that had conducted long-term follow-ups.

Lawrence J. Schweinhart and other staff of the High/Scope Perry Educational Research Foundation associated with the project (the "High/Scope team") evaluated the project using a random assignment design. According to the High/Scope team, the project increased the high school graduation rate and earnings of program participants and reduced criminal behavior. In some cases, however, these findings were inconsistent or varied by the measure used, raising some uncertainty about their validity. Moreover, despite the obvious care the High/Scope team devoted to the evaluation, several major issues related to the random assignment process and data inconsistencies limit the confidence that can be placed in these findings. Although there have been replications of the project, they have not been rigorously evaluated.

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