HighScope Preschool Curriculum Comparison Study
This study compares the HighScope active learning preschool model with two other preschool models. In the study, 68 children, ages 3 and 4 years, were randomly assigned to one of three preschool groups, each receiving a preschool program based on a different curriculum model. (Children in all three groups were living in poverty and at high risk of school failure). The three models represented were the Direct Instruction model, a traditional Nursery School model, and the HighScope model.
Most important, compared with the Direct Instruction Group, the HighScope and Nursery School groups have had significantly fewer felony arrests of various kinds and fewer years of special education for emotional impairment.
Different effects from different preschools
There were clear-cut differences among the programs received by the children and in their eventual effects. Both the HighScope and Nursery School approaches emphasized child-initiated activities in which young children pursued their own interests with staff support. The Direct Instruction approach, in contrast, focused on academics and required young children to respond to rapid-fire questions posed by teachers.
Effects on social responsibility
The most recent interviews of participants in the HighScope Preschool Curriculum Comparison Study occurred when participants reached the age of 23. The major long-term finding from this phase relates to the area of social responsibility. Initially, all three curriculum approaches improved young children's intellectual performance substantially, with the average IQs of children in all three groups rising 27 points. By age 15, however, students in the HighScope group and the Nursery School group — that is, those students whose curriculum approaches had emphasized child-initiated activities — reported only half as much delinquent activity as the students in the Direct Instruction group.
Findings at age 23 continue to support the conclusion that the HighScope and Nursery School groups are better off than the Direct Instruction group in a variety of ways. Either the HighScope group, the Nursery School group, or both, show statistically significant advantages over the Direct Instruction group on 17 variables. Most important, compared with the Direct Instruction Group, the HighScope and Nursery School groups have had significantly fewer felony arrests of various kinds and fewer years of special education for emotional impairment. In addition, compared with the Direct Instruction group, the HighScope group aspires to complete a higher level of schooling, and has more members living with their spouses. It thus appears that preschool programs that promote child-initiated activities (such as the HighScope and Nursery School programs) seem to contribute to the development of an individual's sense of personal and social responsibility.
Schweinhart, L. J., & Weikart, D. P. (1997). Lasting differences: The HighScope Preschool Curriculum Comparison study through age 23 (Monographs of the HighScope Educational Research Foundation, 12). Ypsilanti, MI: HighScope Press.
Schweinhart, L. J., Weikart, D. P., & Larner, M. B. (1986). Consequences of the three preschool curriculum models through age 15. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 1: 15–45.
Weikart, D. P., Epstein, A. S., Schweinhart, L. J., & Bond, J. T. (1978). The Ypsilanti Preschool Curriculum Demonstration Project: Preschool years and longitudinal results (Monographs of the HighScope Educational Research Foundation, 4). Ypsilanti: HighScope Press.
For a list of additional discussions of the Curriculum Comparison study and other HighScope Curriculum research in refereed journals, click here.
HighScope Preschool Curriculum Comparison Study Through Age 23