The HighScope Preschool Curriculum provides an approach characterized by children's active participatory learning, the plan-do-review process, developing children's conflict resolution skills, and adult scaffolding. The curriculum includes a set of resources to support teachers in creating learning environments and experiences that reflect the curriculum's approach.
Last Updated: March 25, 2019
Summary of Curriculum Review
- Promotes research-based teaching practices to support children's development and learning in all Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework (ELOF) domains
- Promotes ongoing observation, planning, and scaffolding based on children's developmental levels
- Provides a range of strategies and resources to support family engagement
- Offers comprehensive standardized training and materials to support implementation
- Promotes active, hands-on exploration
- Provides specific guidance on how to establish well-organized, engaging indoor and outdoor environments
- Provides specific guidance on how to establish a daily schedule and developmentally appropriate routines
- Provides specific adaptations for children with disabilities, suspected delays, or other special needs
- Promotes individualization based on children’s interests, strengths, and needs
- Moderately aligns to the ELOF, but lacks adequate guidance in the ELOF sub-domain of Health, Safety, and Nutrition
- Provides limited guidance on culturally responsive interactions, learning experiences, and materials
- Provides limited guidance on how to support the development and learning of children who are dual language learners (DLLs)
Cost of Curriculum
HighScope Preschool Curriculum Site Kit: $675 per program
HighScope Preschool Curriculum Classroom Kit: $825 per classroom
Cost of Professional Development
Getting Started with HighScope's Preschool Approach and Curriculum: $600
Preschool Curriculum Course: $900 per participant per week for four weeks
Preschool Training of Trainers: $1,368 per participant per week for three weeks
Contact the publisher for the most updated information on costs of the curriculum and current professional development offerings.
Availability in Other Languages
Some curriculum materials are translated into Spanish for an additional fee.
Essentials of Active Learning (Principios básicos del aprendizaje active en preescola): $30
Let's Play and Learn Together! 30 At-Home Activities to Share with Families (¡Vamos a jugar y aprender juntos! 30 actividades para el hogar para compartir en familia): $30
Letter Links (Enlaces de letras): $25.95
Additional materials are available in Spanish for $6 (e.g., Spanish Let's Pretend!, Spanish Reading with Preschoolers).
Center-based preschool programs for children 3–5 years old
Curriculum Materials Reviewed by Raters
All materials from the HighScope Preschool Curriculum were purchased and reviewed in 2017. These materials included:
- HighScope Preschool Curriculum Site Kit (e.g., The HighScope Preschool Curriculum, domain-specific volumes)
- HighScope Preschool Curriculum Classroom Kit (e.g., The HighScope Preschool Curriculum Essentials of Active Learning; 50 Large-Group Activities for Active Learners)
Evidence Base for Child Outcomes
Evidence from research demonstrates that the curriculum has been associated with children's positive learning outcomes. The curriculum has been implemented and directly studied in early childhood programs, and the research showed significant, positive effects on children's developmental outcomes. Evidence of effectiveness has been obtained in rigorous research studies, such as randomized controlled trials or regression discontinuity designs. Research studies on the curriculum have optimally included multiple, diverse groups of children and teachers.
At the time of this review, there is one set of research studies that has been published as part of the Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES) in 2000 and 2009 (Zill, O'Donnell, & Sorongon, 2003; Aikens, Kopack Klein, Tarullo, & West, 2013). Additionally, the publisher highlights the Perry Preschool Project and the HighScope Preschool Curriculum Comparison Study, seminal studies that rigorously tested the impact of HighScope on child outcomes longitudinally. Long-term findings from these studies showed improved outcomes across the areas of education, economic performance, crime prevention, family relationships, and health (Schweinhart, 2006; Schweinhart & Weikart, 1997; Schweinhart, Weikart, & Larner, 1986). However, these studies were not included in the following rating as they were conducted in the 1960s and used an older version of the curriculum.
Rigorous Research Design: The FACES 2000 and 2009 studies used a longitudinal, descriptive design. The FACES studies collected information from Head Start classrooms that were already implementing the HighScope Preschool Curriculum.
Sample and Generalizability: The FACES samples included a representative sample of children who were attending Head Start programs across the nation. The sample included children from primarily low-income and diverse race-ethnic backgrounds.
Fidelity of Implementation: Teacher training on the curriculum and fidelity of implementation were not assessed in the FACES studies.
Child Outcomes: The FACES 2000 study found that Head Start classrooms that used the HighScope Preschool Curriculum had children with larger fall-spring gains in letter recognition and cooperative classroom behaviors in comparison to children in classrooms that used neither the HighScope Preschool Curriculum nor The Creative Curriculum® for Preschool. Children in the HighScope Preschool Curriculum classrooms also showed greater improvement in total behavior problems and hyperactive problem behavior. Due to the descriptive nature of these findings, it cannot be concluded that the curriculum caused these positive child outcomes. No child outcome data were reported related to implementation of the HighScope Preschool Curriculum for the FACES 2009 study.
Aikens, N., Kopack Klein, A., Tarullo, L., and West, J. (2013). Getting ready for kindergarten: Children's progress during Head Start: FACES 2009 report. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Schweinhart, L. J. (2006). The HighScope Perry Preschool study through age 40: Summary, conclusions, and frequently asked questions. Ypsilanti, MI: HighScope Educational Research Foundation.
Schweinhart, L. J., & Weikart., D. P. (1997). The HighScope preschool curriculum comparison study through age 23. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 12, 117–143.
Schweinhart, L. J., Weikart, D. P., & Larner, M. B. (1986). Consequences of three preschool curriculum models through age 15. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 1, 15–45.
Zill, R., O'Donnell, K., & Sorongon, A. (2003). Head Start FACES (2000): A whole-child perspective on program performance: Fourth progress report. Washington, DC: Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The curriculum provides research-based content and teaching practices to support children's development and learning. A research-based curriculum is consistent with research on how children develop and learn. Specifically, it provides rich content, teaching practices, and learning experiences that research has shown to be effective in supporting children's development and learning. A research-based curriculum focuses on domain-specific, developmentally appropriate content and skills that contribute to children's long-range development in each domain.
Approaches to Learning: Many of the curriculum's resources, including Approaches to Learning, provide guidance on classroom organization (e.g., establishing predictable routines, minimizing transitions) and research-based teaching practices to support children's executive functioning and emotion regulation skills (e.g., giving children choices, embedding time for children to recall and reflect on experiences of the day, modeling for and coaching children on how to express and regulate emotions).
Social and Emotional Development: Many of the curriculum's resources, including Social and Emotional Development and Lesson Plans for the First 30 Days: Getting Started with HighScope, detail research-based teaching practices that support building positive, trusting relationships with children (e.g., respond attentively to children's interests, ask children questions to get to know them, and respond to children's questions honestly) as well as creating an emotionally supportive environment (e.g., adults take interest in children's ideas and acknowledge children's efforts and accomplishments). The curriculum also highlights the many informal and formal opportunities for children to practice social and emotional skills (e.g., cooperating with peers during block play, creating opportunities for children to act with empathy during greeting time or work time, problem-solving approach to social conflict).
Language and Communication: The Essentials of Active Learning in Preschool and HighScope Preschool Curriculum describe how to integrate research-based teaching practices to scaffold children's expressive and receptive language all throughout the day. For example, the daily schedule includes routines such as "Plan-Do-Review," small groups, mealtimes, and the message board, all of which allow children to be exposed to and use language in meaningful ways.
Literacy: The Essentials of Active Learning in Preschool and HighScope Preschool Curriculum provide several research-based teaching practices to engage children in meaningful literacy experiences, such as daily interactive reading, labeling interest areas, and using the message board. The Key Developmental Indicators provide research-based scaffolding strategies to support specific literacy knowledge and skills, including phonological awareness, alphabetic knowledge, reading, print concepts, book knowledge, and writing.
Mathematics Development: The Numbers Plus Preschool Mathematics Curriculum and Meaningful Math in Preschool: Making Math Count Throughout the Day promote meaningful math learning experiences as part of the daily routine. These math resources feature a range of research-based teaching practices in this domain, such as introducing children to the language of mathematics, promoting children's conceptual understanding, and providing opportunities for hands-on exploration, problem-solving, and inventions.
Scientific Reasoning: The HighScope Preschool Curriculum describes research-based teaching practices to nurture children's curiosity and engage children in hands-on, inquiry-based explorations. Specifically, Science and Technology provides various research-based teaching practices to support children as they observe, explore, and experiment throughout the day with peers and adults (e.g., vignettes and suggested scaffolding strategies ask children to describe observable phenomena, compare and categorize, make predictions, gather information, analyze results).
Perceptual, Motor, and Physical Development: The HighScope Preschool Curriculum promotes research-based teaching practices to support children's gross, perceptual, and fine motor skills. For example, the curriculum recommends providing materials that encourage use of fingers and hands (e.g., squeeze bottles, shovels, writing utensils) as well as large muscle movement (e.g., wheeled toys, mops, large wood blocks). The curriculum also offers activities where children can practice various locomotor skills, including guidance for teachers on how to use language to increase children's body and directional awareness (e.g., large group activities of throwing scarves or practicing yoga poses). However, the curriculum lacks adequate guidance in the areas of health, safety, and nutrition.
Scope and Sequence
The curriculum includes an organized developmental scope and sequence to support children's development and learning. A scope and sequence outlines what the curriculum focuses on and how the plans and materials support children at different levels of development. The scope refers to the areas of development addressed by the curriculum; the sequence includes plans and materials for learning experiences that progressively build from less to more complex, with the goal of supporting children as they move through the developmental progressions. A content-rich curriculum ensures that sequences of learning experiences include multiple, related opportunities for children to explore a concept or skill with increasing depth. Sequences of learning experiences should be flexible to respond to individual children's interests, strengths, and needs.
Scope: The HighScope Preschool Curriculum clearly identifies eight content areas: Approaches to Learning; Social and Emotional; Mathematics; Science and Technology; Language, Literacy, and Communication; Social Studies; Creative Arts; and Physical Development and Health. In each of the content areas, the curriculum provides a domain-specific book that identifies children's developmental progressions and ways to scaffold children's development and learning.
Sequence: The curriculum provides guidance on how to support children as they move through the developmental progressions in each of the ELOF preschool domains. The Key Developmental Indicators (KDIs) and learning experiences offer supports for children at earlier, middle, and later stages of development. Teachers can use these resources to provide multiple, related learning opportunities that progressively build children's knowledge and skills. The scaffolding strategies and learning experiences can be flexibly implemented to meet individual children's interests and developmental levels.
Alignment with the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework (ELOF)
The curriculum is aligned with the ELOF. Aligning a curriculum with the ELOF identifies the extent to which ELOF domains and sub-domains are addressed in the curriculum. Curricula that are fully aligned with the ELOF are comprehensive and cover all areas of children's learning and development described in the ELOF.
Alignment with the ELOF: A thorough review of all the curriculum materials in relation to the ELOF domains and sub-domains indicates that the HighScope Preschool Curriculum is mostly aligned with the ELOF. The domain-specific books, as well as Essentials of Active Learning and KDI Scaffolding Charts, provide teaching practices that support children's learning and development in the majority of ELOF sub-domains. Furthermore, the curriculum includes several books with activities to support children in the domains of Language and Communication, Literacy, Mathematics Development, Scientific Reasoning, and Physical Development. However, the curriculum partially addresses the ELOF sub-domain of Health, Safety, and Nutrition.
Learning Goals for Children
The curriculum specifies learning goals for children. The curriculum's learning goals are objectives for children's development and learning across domains. Learning goals should be measurable and developmentally appropriate. Measurable learning goals focus on skills, behaviors, and knowledge that are observable; developmentally appropriate learning goals are consistent with well-established developmental progressions. Teachers should be able to use a curriculum's learning goals to individualize learning experiences for all children, such as children from diverse cultures, children who are dual language learners (DLLs), children who are tribal language learners, and children with disabilities or other special needs.
Learning Goals: The KDIs are the curriculum's measurable, developmentally appropriate learning goals in all eight content areas of the curriculum. The KDIs are integrated throughout many of the curriculum's materials, which provide teaching practices and learning experiences to support children's progress toward these goals. The KDIs can be used to individualize learning experiences for all children.
Ongoing Child Assessment
The curriculum provides guidance on ongoing child assessment. Ongoing child assessment is a process of gathering information to understand and support children's development over time. Information gathered through observation and documentation helps inform curriculum planning, teaching, and individualizing for all children. Ongoing child assessment can also be used to periodically complete standardized and structured assessment instruments to evaluate children's developmental progress.
Ongoing Observation and Documentation: The HighScope Preschool Curriculum emphasizes the role of the teacher as an observer throughout all of its materials. It provides guidance on how to observe children as well as strategies for taking anecdotal notes, discussing observations with others, and using the information to plan for and scaffold children's learning.
Standardized and Structured Assessment Instruments: The HighScope Preschool Curriculum discusses the importance of authentic assessments being valid and reliable as well as individually, culturally, and linguistically appropriate. The HighScope Preschool Curriculum encourages programs to use the publisher's Child Observation Record (COR) Advantage.
Parent and Family Engagement
The curriculum promotes parent and family engagement. Parent and family engagement is a collaborative and strengths-based process through which early childhood teachers, families, and children build positive and goal-oriented relationships. It is a shared responsibility of families and staff that is built on mutual respect for the roles and strengths each has to offer. The curriculum provides culturally and linguistically responsive strategies to communicate with families and to engage families in children's learning.
Communicating with Families: The curriculum provides a range of strategies to communicate and connect with parents and families. Some of these strategies invite teachers to learn from families (e.g., suggestion box, parents share observations of children, teachers conduct home visits to learn about styles and traditions). Furthermore, the curriculum includes examples of information to include in notes or newsletters sent home to families. Some curriculum resources specify the importance of translating materials for families who do not speak English and understanding families' cultures.
Engaging Families: The curriculum provides multiple resources to support parent and family engagement. Bringing Active Learning Home is a series of family workshops that suggests teachers take families' backgrounds and needs into account to tailor workshops (e.g., translating workshop handouts). In addition, Let's Play and Learn Together offers home activities to share with families.
Professional Development and Materials to Support Implementation
The curriculum offers professional development and materials to support implementation and continuous improvement. Professional development includes gaining the knowledge and skills required for effective implementation of a curriculum. Standardized training procedures include initial and ongoing training to support education staff as they learn to implement a curriculum with fidelity. Standardized training procedures provide consistent content and delivery methods across training sessions. Curriculum materials to support implementation include resources that come with a curriculum to help education staff understand how to use it. The materials may also include resources to help education managers and coaches support education staff to implement the curriculum effectively.
Professional Development: The publisher, HighScope, offers comprehensive standardized initial training and ongoing professional development. They offer two in-person courses for standardized initial training for a fee: a four-week training on implementing the curriculum and a one-week training that covers a variety of topics, such as content areas, assessment, and adult-child interactions. HighScope offers ongoing professional development opportunities through a range of short- and long-term courses, offered both online and in person at an additional cost. Finally, HighScope offers customized trainings for programs.
Curriculum Materials to Support Implementation: The HighScope Preschool Curriculum provides a comprehensive set of materials to support implementation. The HighScope Curriculum Kit User Guide provides step-by-step instructions for teachers and program administrators to begin implementing the curriculum. Additionally, the curriculum includes two central books that introduce the HighScope approach and provide guidance on how to set up the learning environment, establish daily routines, and plan learning experiences (HighScope Preschool Curriculum and Essentials of Active Learning).
- Fidelity Tool: The curriculum offers the Program Quality Assessment (PQA) tool. This tool measures the quality of different aspects of program implementation, and the information gathered from this tool can be used to understand how teachers are implementing the HighScope Preschool Curriculum.
Learning Experiences and Interactions
The curriculum promotes rich learning experiences and interactions to support development across domains. Rich learning experiences support and extend children's knowledge, understanding of concepts, and skills across domains. As children actively explore their learning environment by manipulating objects and investigating concepts, teachers interact with them to extend their exploration, thinking, and communication. The curriculum offers children ample opportunities to engage in hands-on exploration and provides teachers with guidance on how to extend children's exploration, thinking, and communication. Rich learning experiences should be culturally and linguistically responsive and inclusive of children with disabilities, suspected delays, or other special needs.
Active Exploration: Active, hands-on exploration is core to the HighScope Preschool Curriculum philosophy, which emphasizes "active participatory learning." Throughout its many volumes, the curriculum includes extensive guidance on how teachers: plan a daily schedule that allows for children's exploration, provide open-ended materials for children to explore, and implement learning experiences that promote active exploration.
Interactions That Extend Children's Learning: Many of the curriculum's resources provide guidance and examples on how teachers can engage in interactions that extend children's exploration, thinking, and communication. For example, the KDI Scaffolding Charts provide examples of what teachers can do to support children's current levels of development and strategies to extend their learning. Similarly, Plan, Do, and Review offers many strategies designed to support and extend children's learning (e.g., suggesting new ideas within the context of play, gently challenging children's thinking).
Individualization: The curriculum provides guidance on how to individualize learning experiences for children. I Belong describes ways to individualize each part of the HighScope environment and day for children with disabilities or other special needs. Other materials include sample lesson plans that provide specific adaptations for children with disabilities or other special needs. Additionally, the curriculum provides some specific scaffolding strategies for children who are DLLs within its guidance on KDI 30—English Language Learning, but does not include specific strategies to support children who are DLLs embedded throughout the suggested learning experiences. The curriculum lacks specific guidance on how to plan culturally responsive learning experiences.
Learning Environments and Routines
The curriculum provides guidance on how to set up rich learning environments and developmentally appropriate routines. Rich learning environments are nurturing spaces that support the development of all young children. The curriculum provides guidance on how to design developmentally appropriate schedules, routines, and indoor and outdoor opportunities for choice, play, exploration, and experimentation. Learning environments include age-appropriate equipment, materials, and supplies. They also reflect home cultures and are flexible to support the changing ages, interests, and characteristics of a group of children over time.
Environment: The core curriculum resources provide specific guidance on how to establish well-organized, engaging indoor and outdoor environments that promote active participatory learning and children's development in the ELOF domains. The curriculum offers some guidance on how to embed children's home languages and cultures in the physical environment, and it includes more specific and extensive guidance on how to ensure the physical environment is accessible for children with disabilities or other special needs.
Learning Materials: The HighScope Preschool Curriculum provides guidelines on how to select learning materials (e.g., providing varied and open-ended materials) as well as specific suggestions for developmentally appropriate materials for interest areas and learning experiences. The curriculum provides some guidance for ensuring that the learning materials authentically represent the cultures, ethnicities, and home languages of children in the program. Guidance for adapting learning materials for children with disabilities or other special needs is embedded throughout many of the HighScope Preschool Curriculum resources.
Schedule and Routines: The curriculum explains the importance of having consistent, predictable daily schedules and routines. The core curriculum resources offer sample daily schedules and general guidelines for organizing daily routines, while Lesson Plans for the First 30 Days provides more specific guidance to teachers on the daily routines and how to familiarize children with the routines. There is some consideration for how to make routines more home-like for children and how schedules and routines may need to be individualized for children with disabilities or other special needs.
The curriculum supports cultural responsiveness. Cultural responsiveness is a strengths-based approach to teaching and caregiving rooted in respect and appreciation for the role of culture in children's learning and development. A culturally responsive curriculum prompts teachers to learn about each child's strengths, abilities, experiences, and interests as developed within the child's family and culture. The curriculum provides guidance on how to modify and enhance curriculum plans and materials to build on these strengths, abilities, experiences, and interests with the goal of incorporating each child's culture into the classroom.
Interactions: The curriculum provides limited general guidance on culturally responsive ways to interact with diverse children and families. For example, the chapter "Involving Families in Active Learning Settings" encourages teachers to participate in community life to get to know families better or conduct home visits to learn about families' traditions and beliefs. However, the curriculum provides less information on how to use this information to engage in culturally responsive interactions with both children and families.
Learning Experiences: The curriculum provides some general recommendations for how to ensure learning experiences build on children's cultures. KDI 53—Diversity suggests that teachers include diversity in every classroom area and activity (e.g., visit local markets or events, celebrate holidays and traditions of families). Similarly, Social Studies asks teachers to provide materials across the interest areas that reflect children's home cultures, which would set the context learning experiences that build on children's cultures. However, the curriculum lacks guidance on how to plan or adapt learning experiences that build on families' traditions, cultures, values, and beliefs.
Learning Environment: The curriculum mentions the importance of using learning materials that represent the cultures and ethnicities of children and families and provides some general guidance about selecting these materials. The curriculum primarily states to include items from children's cultures or items they would see in their homes, but there is less information about how to select such materials or how to use the materials in learning experiences.
The curriculum supports linguistic responsiveness. Linguistic responsiveness refers to teaching practices that support the learning, development, and engagement of children from diverse linguistic backgrounds. It includes supports for continued development of children's home or tribal languages by authentically incorporating children's languages into the learning environment. Furthermore, linguistically responsive practices can facilitate English acquisition. The curriculum provides scaffolding strategies to support children at any level of English knowledge to fully participate in the curriculum's learning experiences.
Scaffolding Strategies: The curriculum provides general guidance and strategies to scaffold the development and learning of children who are DLLs. The guidance is limited to the KDI 30—English Language Learning and one section of Language, Literacy, and Communication. However, scaffolding strategies for children who are DLLs are not explicitly or consistently integrated throughout many of the curriculum's extensive set of resources.
Home and Tribal Languages: The curriculum provides general guidance on how to incorporate children's home languages into the learning environment, but the guidance is fairly limited to labeling centers and including books or other materials in children's home languages. The curriculum lacks specific ideas for how teachers can authentically incorporate children's home languages throughout the daily routine or during interactions. Tribal languages are not addressed.
Individualization for Children with Disabilities, Suspected Delays, or Other Special Needs
The curriculum provides guidance on how to individualize for children with disabilities, suspected delays, or other special needs. Individualization for children with disabilities, suspected delays, or other special needs includes providing more specialized supports for children to access and participate in learning, social experiences, and activities. The curriculum's guidance for specialized supports includes specific teaching practices and ways of interacting with children, as well as adaptations to daily schedules, learning activities, and the learning environment. Individualizing for children with disabilities, suspected delays, or other special needs enables all children to access, participate, and thrive in early learning settings.
Teaching Practices and Interventions: I Belong: Active Learning for Children with Special Needs provides practical scenarios, examples, and strategies to modify activities to accommodate children with disabilities or other special needs. Other curriculum resources that focus on learning activities (e.g., 50 Large Group Activities for Active Learning, Small Group Times to Scaffold Early Learning) provide specific adaptations for children with disabilities or other special needs (e.g., offering picture cards, providing alternative materials to do the activity).
Learning Environment: I Belong: Active Learning for Children with Special Needs thoroughly discusses how to adapt the learning environment and daily routines for children with disabilities or other special needs.
Individualization Based on Interests, Strengths, and Needs
The curriculum offers guidance on how to individualize based on children's interests, strengths, and needs. Individualization is a process of planning and implementing learning experiences that are responsive to each child's interests, strengths, and needs. Teachers reflect on their observations of each child and then plan the most effective ways to support each child's learning and development. When learning experiences are tailored to children's interests, they are more engaging and meaningful to children. Because children may vary in their developmental progressions, it is also important that the curriculum supports teachers in planning learning experiences that are responsive to individual children's strengths and needs.
Individualization Based on Interests: The HighScope approach emphasizes the importance of teachers observing for and planning based on children's interests. Furthermore, the plan-do-review process, which is an integral part of the curriculum, allows for children to make choices daily to engage with materials and activities that are of interest to them.
Individualization Based on Strengths and Needs: The HighScope approach emphasizes the importance of teachers observing, planning, and scaffolding based on children's developmental levels. For each KDI, the curriculum provides specific scaffolding strategies for children at various levels of development.