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Volume 6 Number 1
©The Author(s) 2004

In Memoriam: David P. Weikart: 1931-2003

Dr. David P. Weikart, founder and president-emeritus of High/Scope Educational Research Foundation in Ypsilanti, Michigan, died December 9, 2003, after a long struggle with leukemia. He is survived by his wife Phyllis, four daughters, six grandchildren, a sister, and two brothers. Born August 26, 1931, he received his Ph.D. in psychology and education at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He founded the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation in 1970 as an independent, nonprofit organization and served as its president and chairman of its board. Well known for its educational model treating children as active, intentional learners, High/Scope under Dave's leadership developed, validated, and disseminated this model for preschoolers, elementary-age children, and adolescents. His lifelong mission, now High/Scope's, was to work with programs to enable children and youth to become active participants in

In 1962, Dave and his colleagues initiated the High/Scope Perry Preschool study, what has become the lifetime examination of 123 children who were randomly assigned either to a group that received a preschool program at ages 3 and 4 or to one that did not. The program under investigation maintained a high level of quality, with systematic use of an educational model, certified teachers each serving five to six children, and weekly home visits. The study had little attrition—a median of only 6% of cases missing across 48 measures collected over 40 years of life. It found that program participants were more ready for school and later achieved greater school success. The study also found that by age 27 participants had committed only half as many crimes and attained greater economic success—the program provided a substantial public economic return. Other longitudinal studies have since found similar findings. Dave presented these findings to many audiences, and advocacy for such programs grew. Funding for the national Head Start program grew from $735 million in 1980 to $6.5 billion in 2002, and most states initiated their own state preschool programs.

The second study—the High/Scope Preschool Curriculum Comparison Study—involved random assignment of 68 children to three groups that experienced different models of high-quality preschool education at ages 3 and 4—a socially oriented traditional nursery school program, a fast-paced direct instruction program, or the High/Scope child development program. All three groups experienced average intellectual growth of 27 IQ points in their programs' first year. But in the longer term, the direct instruction group fared worse: 47% of this group needed treatment for emotional impairment or disturbance during their schooling as compared to only 6% of the other two groups; 39% were arrested for a felony by age 23 as compared to only 10% of the High/Scope group. Direct instruction developers have challenged the methodology of this study but have yet to explain away its findings, which are all the more important today as some seek to change curriculum practices in Head Start and other programs.

As coordinator of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) Preprimary Study, Dave led an unprecedented examination of early care and education programs in 17 countries, including the United States. This study has produced a series of reports on parent beliefs, the characteristics of early childhood settings, and how these characteristics relate to children's cognitive and language performance at ages 4 and 7.

In the time between Dave's retirement and his death, he wrote the book How High/Scope Grew: A Memoir (High/Scope Press, 2004). In it, he laid out not only the history of the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation but also the vision that continues to drive it. He identified one principle of operation that applies equally to this journal:

Scientific research produces knowledge, which contributes to the development of effective educational and social policies and programs. Many educational practice and education reform proposals are based on someone's beliefs and personal philosophies. While these are a rich source for inspiration and hypotheses, valid scientific research knowledge is required for high-quality educational reform. Does the belief translate successfully into practice? A number of educational programs are in use today, which, when scientifically evaluated, are shown not to be effective. Many more are offered only after a limited evaluation and without the necessary information on the program's overall impact on the children. The question is not whether a child knows something (the alphabet, for example), but what were the conditions under which it was learned. Effective research, although tedious at times and difficult to pursue, is a cornerstone of high-quality education.

Lawrence J. Schweinhart
President, High/Scope Educational Research Association