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Perry Preschool Project

Ages 3-4

Rating: Level 1


The Perry Preschool Program provides high-quality education for disadvantaged children ages 3 to 4 to improve their capacity for future success in school and in life. The intervention breaks the link between childhood poverty and school failure by promoting young children’s intellectual, social, and physical development. By increasing academic success, the Perry Preschool Program is also able to improve employment opportunities and wages and to decrease crime, teenage pregnancy, and welfare use.

The program consists of a 30-week school year. During that year there is a daily 2½-hour classroom session and a weekly 1½-hour home visit. The home visits are a way to involve the mother in the educational process and enable her to provide her child with support. They also serve to extend what the child has learned in school to the home. Teachers organize group meetings of mothers and father with children in the program.

The curriculum was originally called the Cognitive-Oriented Curriculum but is currently named the High/Scope Curriculum. It emphasizes an open approach to learning; children are active participants. There is a consistent daily routine within the classroom, which involves a plan–do–review sequence of learning activities. Everything within the Perry Preschool Program has a theoretical justification of how to work with children. Children are encouraged to engage in play activities that involve making choices and solving problems that contribute to their intellectual, social, and physical development.


The evaluation consisted of an experimental design with a 27-year follow-up. There were 123 participants, ages 3 and 4, all African-American, of low socioeconomic status, with low IQ scores (between 70 and 85, the range for borderline mental impairment), with no organic deficiencies (i.e., biologically based mental impairment), and at high risk of failing school. Fifty-eight children were assigned to the program group, and 65 were assigned to a control group that did not go through the program. The groups were matched according to age, IQ, socioeconomic status, and gender. There were no differences between the groups with regard to father absence, parent education level, family size, household density, or birth order. Researchers collected follow-up data annually when the children were between ages 3 and 11 and then at ages 14, 15, 19, and 27. Attrition in the sample was extremely low. Dependant variables included intellectual performance, school success, delinquent and criminal activity, socioeconomic success, and personal development.


Delinquency and crime rates for the children in the program were significantly lower than for those in the control group. Thirty-one percent of experimental group children had ever been arrested, compared with 51 percent of control group participants. Overall arrests were fewer: 1.3 per person for the experimental group versus 2.3 for the controls. At age 19, reports for fighting and violent behavior, property damage, and police contacts were lower. Married status among males at age 27 was the same for both groups, at 26 percent. However, females differed significantly; 40 percent of program group women were married, compared with 8 percent of control group women. Fifty-seven percent of mothers in the program group were not married, compared with 83 percent of mothers in the control group. Scholastic achievement and test scores were higher for the experimental group. Only 54 percent of controls graduated from high school, compared with 71 percent of those in the experimental group. Children who participated in the program had higher earnings and more frequently owned homes and a second car.

Risk Factors


  • Cognitive and neurological deficits/Low intelligence quotient/Hyperactivity
  • Mental disorder/Mental health problem/Conduct disorder


  • Broken home
  • Family management problems/Poor parental supervision and/or monitoring
  • Low parent education level/Illiteracy


  • Low academic achievement
  • Negative attitude toward school/Low bonding/Low school attachment/Commitment to school


  • Economic deprivation/Poverty/Residence in a disadvantaged neighborhood


  • Association with delinquent and/or aggressive peers

Protective Factors


  • Healthy / Conventional beliefs and clear standards
  • High expectations
  • Perception of social support from adults and peers
  • Positive / Resilient temperament
  • Positive expectations / Optimism for the future
  • Self-efficacy
  • Social competencies and problem-solving skills


  • Good relationships with parents / Bonding or attachment to family
  • Opportunities for prosocial family involvement


  • Strong school motivation / Positive attitude toward school


  • Involvement with positive peer group activities


  • OJJDP: Blueprints
  • SAMHSA: Model Programs
  • NIJ: What Works
  • HHS: Surgeon General


Parks, Greg. 2000. “The High/Scope Perry Preschool Project.” Juvenile Justice Bulletin. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Schweinhart, Lawrence J., H. Verdain Barnes, and David P. Weikart. 1993. “Significant Benefits: The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study Through Age 27.” In Monographs of the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, No. 10. Ypsilanti, Mich.: High/Scope Press.

Schweinhart, Lawrence J., and David P. Weikart. 1995. “The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study Through Age 27.” In Robert R. Ross, Daniel H. Antonowicz, and Gurmeet K. Dhaliwal (eds). Going Straight: Effective Delinquency Prevention and Offender Rehabilitation. Ottawa, Ontario: Air Training and Publications, 57–75.


Gavin Haque
High/Scope Educational Research Foundation
600 North River Street
Ypsilanti, MI 48198–2898
Phone: (734) 485-2000
Fax: (734) 485-0704
Web site: