The Perry Preschool Project was a study that became famous for proving the positive impacts of early childhood education on children from disadvantaged backgrounds. While the study was conducted more than fifty years ago, the effects are still being felt today. Whatsmore, the results have become even more impressive over time.
Conducted from 1962–1967, this early childhood education study took 123 preschool children with risk factors of failing in school and randomly divided them into two groups. One group entered a high-quality preschool program, while the other group received no preschool education. Researchers at HighScope, an organization founded by Dr. David Weikart — one of the study’s principal researchers — continue studying the lasting effects of The Perry Preschool Project.
The results? Participants who were given a high-quality preschool education have shown higher earning rates, higher high school graduation levels, and lower involvement in criminal activities. The long-term data also proves that this kind of early childhood education program is valuable monetarily. Researches found a $12.90 return on every dollar invested as well as $175,000 long-term savings on welfare and crime-related costs.
Early Childhood Education Study — Character Counts
More important than IQ results or test scores are the program’s effects on the participants’ character. According to The Heckman Equation, students who received high-quality preschool education showed reduced aggression and reduced anti-social behavior. This led to long-term positive impacts on employability and health behaviors, while at the same time reducing criminal activity.
“From this research, there is an indication that comprehensive, high-quality education — that includes enriching early learning experiences with qualified and responsive teachers coupled with family support and engagement — provides skills for children to deal with obstacles and stress,” says Dr. Iheoma Iruka, Chief Research Innovation Officer and Director, The Center for Early Education Research & Evaluation at HighScope Educational Research Foundation. She explains to Parentology that, “Children are being able to persist, plan, and focus their behaviors towards specific goals, and this is reflected in the way they live their lives, [such as] graduating from school and being in a committed relationship, and subsequently how they parent their children.”
How can these findings be applied in today’s current educational environment? Iruka is optimistic. She says, “We should incorporate culturally-affirming and enriching active learning opportunities in the classrooms with highly-qualified and sensitive teachers, family engagement and support, strong leadership, and programs connected to children’s contexts and lived experiences.”
Started over fifty years ago and with many of the participants now well into middle-age, The Perry Preschool Project continues to shed light on the importance of early childhood education programs to disadvantaged youth. The ongoing research reinforces that early intervention can change the trajectory of a child’s life and impact future generations.