The Perry Preschool Project

As I make my way through "How Children Succeed" I continually find myself utterly amazed at the stories.  Stories that have science behind them.  The Perry Preschool Project, as Tough describes it, is famous in social science circles, even though it was considered a failure for early-childhood intervention.

In the mid 1960's a group of child psychologists and education researchers undertook an experiment where they recruited low-income, low-IQ parents from Ypsilanti, Michigan's black neighbourhoods to sign up their 3 and 4 year old kids for the Perry Preschool.  Perry was a high quality, two year preschool program with an excellent reputation.  Children were tracked not just for the 2 years, but for decades, in an ongoing study intended to follow them for the rest of their lives.  Today the subjects are in their 40's.  During the 2 years at Perry the treatment children did do significantly better on cognitive tests than the control group, but the gains did not last.  By the third grade their IQ scores were no different than the control group.  The remarkable part is that researchers found something important happened to them in preschool.  Compared to the control group the Perry students were more likely to graduate from high school, more likely to be employed at age twenty-seven, more likely to be earning more than $25,000 at age forty and less likely to be arrested.  The Perry Project worked entirely different than researchers had thought it would.  It improved behaviour and social skills.  Those noncognitive skills such as curiosity, self-control and social fluidity were responsible for as much as two-thirds of total benefit Perry gave its students.

Of course there are many details of the research that I have left out for you to discover on your own.  But what really struck me as I read that brief story in the introduction was how amazing it must have been for those researchers to initially believe the project failed only to realize years later the power of what they had uncovered.  What it would have been like to have that jolt of euphoria when they unmasked the results.  I'm sure they felt amazing.  I know I would have.

The Effect of Good Parenting
How Children Succeed

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  • Marsha Kelly

    My oldest daughter is in SK, the second year of FDK. At the end of the day I have her use one of the sentence starters, that we created at the end of the summer, to tell me about her day. Often she will tell me that today I learned to listen to my partner attentively or to make sure I am taking turns in the conversation.

    I am learning so much from my conversations with my four year old. They are doing such a great job in FDK to develop the skills the children will need to build on their curiosity, learn from those around them and persevere on difficult tasks.

  • Fifer

    Thanks for your comment Marsha. I have visited our FDK classes a lot over the first month of school and I am seeing much of what you are hearing from your daughter. It is just amazing to see the social growth in the children.