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When selecting a pre-school, some parents look for an academic-driven program. But a recent study shows that programs built around character skills have far greater impact on achievement and life outcomes.

A study led by James Heckman on the Perry Preschool Program shows 30-40 percent of the variance in achievement test scores across students is due to character skills, not IQ.

The study found that children shaped by character became adults with higher monthly incomes and better employment opportunities. These adults also experienced decreases in lifetime arrests, felony arrests, violent crimes and tobacco use.

Policymakers and educators should act on the evidence.

Heckman encourages policymakers, educators and social and economic advocates to:

  • Invest in quality early education programs for children from birth to age five.

  • Make sure early childhood education programs focus on cognitive and character development.

If you are looking for a pre-school program for your child, The Rappahannock Area Smart Beginnings program maintains a list of voluntarily rated preschools for area parents. The programs are rigorously assessed in five areas. For more information on the assessments, check out the star-rated programs.


Leigh Anne Van Doren publishes Fredericksburg Parent and Family and sits on the board of Smart Beginnings Rappahannock Area. Sara Branner, who was in her 2003 Fredericksburg Area Service League class and 2010 Leadership Fredericksburg class, drafted her to the board. She enjoys just about any project Sara talks her into.





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