Perry Preschool Project

Updated: Oct 05, 2021
Evidence Rating:
Suggestive Tier


  • Program:

    A high-quality preschool program for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

  • Evaluation Methods:

    A well-conducted randomized controlled trial (RCT) with a sample of 128 three- and four-year-old African-American children living in poverty.

  • Key Findings:

    Large effects on educational attainment, income, criminal activity, and other important life outcomes, sustained well into adulthood.

  • Other:

    This was a relatively small study launched in the 1960s, and it included a few departures from random assignment that may reduce confidence in the findings. Replication of these findings in a second trial would be desirable to confirm the initial results and establish that they generalize to present-day settings.

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. 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 $21,800 per child (in 2017 dollars).[1]

Click here to go to the Perry Preschool Study’s web page.

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[1] This is the per participant program cost as reported in Schweinhart et al 2005 and adjusted for inflation.

Lawrence J. Schweinhart, Helen V. Barnes, and David P. Weikart. Significant Benefits: The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study Through Age 27 (High/Scope Press, 1993).

Lawrence J. Schweinhart, Jeanne Montie, Zongping Xiang, W. Steven Barnett, Clive R. Belfield, and Milagros Nores. Lifetime Effects: The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study Through Age (High/Scope Press, 2005).

Peter Muennig, Lawrence J. Schweinhart, Jeanne Montie, and Matthew Neidell. Effects of a Prekindergarten Educational Intervention on Adult Health: 37-Year Follow-Up Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial (American Journal of Public Health, 2009).