The High/Scope approach began as a curriculum model for preschool at the Ypsilanti Perry Preschool and was later extended to curriculum for kindergarten through third grade. The name was meant to communicate high aspirations and a broad scope of interests. David Weikart is the educator responsible for the thinking and organizing of the curriculum ideas of High/Scope. Early in the development of the High/Scope curriculum, the work of Piaget became influential and the curriculum was renamed the cognitively oriented curriculum. Many people continue to call it High/Scope, however—even though the name was changed more than 20 years ago.

Emergence of the High/Scope Curriculum.

When High/Scope programs first began, teachers were teaching with very direct methods, often instructing children in motor and perceptual skills. With the influence of Piaget's ideas, they began instructing children in Piagetian tasks because they thought that those tasks would move children to the next stage of cognitive development. As Weikart and his colleagues studied Piaget further, the curriculum was based more on the idea that children are active learners and can construct their own knowledge. Teachers stopped their direct teaching and were free to participate with the children in activities. The preschool curriculum recommends key experiences for the children. Those experiences are organized into three categories and within each category are types of learning experiences:

  1. Social and emotional development, including recognition and solution of problems, understanding routines and expectations, and communicating with others
  2. Movement and physical development, including block building, climbing, ball throwing and catching, and play with manipulatives
  3. Cognitive development, including representation, language, classification, seriation, number, space, and time

The key experiences give structure to the curriculum while at the same time maintain a flexibility to accommodate new possibilities. Teachers can use these experiences to organize their planning of activities. They also are linked to how both children and program are assessed. Teachers use them as a framework with which to observe children.

The Plan-Do-Review Component. 

In addition to the key experiences, another curriculum component is unique to High/Scope. It is a sequence called plan-do-review and it is used frequently throughout the day. Let's look in a High/Scope classroom and see what plan-do-review looks like:

Vanessa: Plan-Do-Review

It's planning time, and 4-year-old Vanessa approaches her teacher Sylvanna and describes what she is going to do during the outside play period. "I'm going to make a bakery and sell cakes," says Vanessa, pointing to the sandbox. Sylvanna asks, "What kind of cakes?" and adds, "Are you going to sell anything else?" Vanessa talks about chocolate and gingerbread cakes, and cookies and pies. She says that she will put candles in some of them for birthdays. Eagerly, Vanessa heads for the sandbox and a shelf of pails and plastic containers. She begins the "doing" phase of the sequence. After outdoor play, children engage in a recall or review of their activities. Again, their teacher Sylvanna encourages representation of their "doing"—by talking, or drawing, or pantomiming, or writing about their activities. Vanessa draws a shelf of cakes, some with candles, and price tags on each one. She is anxious to show her drawing to the group and to talk about her cakes.

If Vanessa engaged in plan-do-review inside the classroom, she would have a choice of learning centers or work areas, usually a block area, an art area, a quiet area, and a house area. During small group time, the teachers present an activity in which all the children participate—usually in key experiences. This is a time when teachers can observe children, assess their development, and guide their progress. High/Scope teachers ask children a lot of questions throughout the day to extend the children's thinking and to promote problem solving and independent thinking.

We have been describing a preschool classroom and curriculum, but if you were to visit a classroom in an elementary setting—kindergarten through third grade—you would still see work areas and key experiences, but they would be related to public school elementary subjects of math, language and literacy, and science. For example, the work areas would include a reading/writing area, a math area, a computer area, an art area, and a construction area. Most teaching would take place in small groups and some cooperative work would be part of the day.

Today, there is a High/Scope foundation that sponsors research, curriculum development, professional training for teachers, and public advocacy. Research on High/Scope or Ypsilanti Perry Preschool has demonstrated that there are multiple long-term benefits of well-developed early childhood education programs. Through the advocacy of Weikart and his colleagues, policymakers, legislators, and the general public have been convinced of the cost effectiveness and social value of such programs.