The Perry Preschool Project, carried out from 1962 to 1967, provided high-quality preschool education to three- and four-year-old African-American children living in poverty and assessed to be at high risk of school failure. About 75 percent of the children participated for two school years (at ages 3 and 4); the remainder participated for one year (at age 4).
The preschool was provided each weekday morning in 2.5-hour sessions taught by certified public school teachers with at least a bachelor’s degree. The average child-teacher ratio was 6:1. The curriculum emphasized active learning, in which the children engaged in activities that (i) involved decision making and problem solving, and (ii) were planned, carried out, and reviewed by the children themselves, with support from adults. The teachers also provided a weekly 1.5-hour home visit to each mother and child, designed to involve the mother in the educational process and help implement the preschool curriculum at home. The program’s cost was approximately $11,300 per child per school year (in 2007 dollars).
Educational outcomes for preschool group (versus control group):
At age 27 follow-up
- Completed an average of almost 1 full year more of schooling (11.9 years vs. 11 years).
- Spent an average of 1.3 fewer years in special education services — e.g., for mental, emotional, speech, or learning impairment (3.9 years vs. 5.2 years).
- 44 percent higher high school graduation rate (65 percent vs. 45 percent)
Economic outcomes for preschool group (versus control group):
At age 40 follow-up
- 42 percent higher median monthly income ($1,856 vs. $1,308).
- 26 percent less likely to have received government assistance (e.g. welfare, food stamps) in the past ten years (59% vs. 80%)
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