Ypsilanti's HighScope Educational Research Foundation adds partners, more students this school year

Ypsilanti-based HighScope Educational Research Foundation was forced to close its demonstration preschool for one year during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the program is coming back this fall stronger than before due to a partnership with Ann Arbor-based Gretchen's House.

Early childhood education nonprofit HighScope celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2020 and will celebrate the 50th year of its demonstration preschool this year. 

Locally, HighScope is known for the Perry Preschool Study started by psychologist David Weikart, in cooperation with Perry Elementary School principal Charles Eugene Beatty, in 1962. The study tracked the progress of 123 Black children born in poverty and at high risk of academic failure, even following the children into adulthood. 

HighScope President Alejandra Barraza says the study is now looking at the third generation, examining impacts on the original subjects' siblings and grandchildren.

"Our program has a family focus, so the impact on the families is incredibly important," Barraza says. 

Results of the landmark study showed that quality preschool programs with an emphasis on active learning have a lasting, positive impact on the participants' life outcomes.
HighScope ended its relationship with Ypsilanti's Perry Elementary many years ago, but the research done in the '60s led to HighScope's establishment in 1970. Since then, HighScope's research has been used in HeadStart and other early childhood programs around the United States, and HighScope now has a presence in 10 countries besides the U.S.  

After a year's hiatus, the only time in 50 years that the demonstration preschool hasn't been open, the program is back this fall with more slots for pupils and a new partnership with early childhood development center Gretchen's House. The preschool building will be renamed Gretchen’s House @ HighScope.

In 2019, the demonstration preschool was made up of 12 4-year-old pupils, with four of them having their tuition funded by the state of Michigan through the Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP). The rest of the children's families either paid full tuition or partial tuition through a scholarship. This fall, the demonstration preschool will take on 16 children, all funded by GSRP.

The preschool has a number of aims, from demonstrating the HighScope curriculum in action to providing ongoing professional development for teachers to serving as a lab that supports HighScope's research and curriculum.

Through the new partnership, Gretchen's House will contribute staff, and HighScope will contribute one teacher and the preschool building and its grounds. Barraza says the fit with Gretchen's House was ideal, since Gretchen's House had been a "valued partner for many  years," including HighScope practices in its centers around Ann Arbor. 

Barraza says the fact that the owner of Gretchen's House "is an expert in outdoor spaces" as places of learning brings extra value to the partnership. The grounds of the demonstration preschool are currently being renovated to make the most of them, Barraza says.

Though HighScope has a global reach, Barraza says it's important for the organization to focus on outreach in its home city of Ypsilanti. To that end, HighScope will host an open house from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Aug. 19 on its campus at 600 N. River St. in Ypsilanti. Parents of prospective students and other community members are welcome to attend. 

For more information, contact Laura Griswold at Inquiry@gretchenshouse.com.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.

Photo by Sarah Rigg.