A long-running study of the effects of preschool programs for children in poverty shows the benefits of a child-initiated, teacher-facilitated curriculum.
A widespread consensus has developed in favor of public support for preschool programs for young children living in poverty. Head Start and state prekindergarten programs today serve about two-thirds of U.S. 4-year-olds living in poverty. Federal Head Start spending has tripled in the past decade, and nearly two-thirds of the states provide similar programs for 4-year-olds (see box, p. 58).
Influential groups of citizens, such as the Committee for Economic Development, have lent their political clout to this development - partly because of the findings of the High/Scope Perry Preschool Study that a high-quality preschool program cuts participants' lifetime arrest rate in half, significantly improves their educational and subsequent economic success, and provides taxpayers a return equal to 716 percent of their original investment in the program, a return that outperformed the U.S. stock market during the same period of time (Schweinhart et at. 1993; Barnett 1996).
We have less consensus on the goals of preschool programs. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (Bredekamp and Copple 1997) strongly favors developmentally appropriate practice, but this position has found detractors. Academic critics, such as Mallory and New (1994), argue that developmentally appropriate practice is socially constructed, context-bound, and insensitive to cultural and individual differences in development. Conservative critics, such as Hirsch (1997), see it as progressive ideology without adequate research support.
Should early childhood curriculum be adult-directed or child-initiated? Or should there be a balance of these two approaches? Is there a well-defined, research-proven model we can follow? The High/Scope Preschool Curriculum Comparison Study (the study that followed the High/Scope Perry Preschool Study), which was begun in 1969 …