The David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality was launched in January 2008 as a joint venture of the Forum for Youth Investment and the HighScope Educational Research Foundation. Though the joint venture is new, the work has a rich history.
This history began in 1963, when David P. Weikart founded the HighScope Summer camp, later called the Institute for IDEAS. This residential, educational program provided summer learning experiences in the arts and sciences for thousands of youth from diverse social and cultural backgrounds. Participants included teens from disadvantaged urban and rural areas as well as international students. The Institute utilized a positive youth development approach long before this was a common phrase.
In the late 1990s HighScope's Youth Development Group took the learning approach developed at the Institute for IDEAS and delivered training for youth workers. These workshops, grounded in our direct experience and positive youth development research, evolved into what is currently our Youth Work Methods series.
In 2005 the Youth Program Quality Assessment (Youth PQA) was published after a multi-year study funded by the William T. Grant Foundation demonstrated that the observational assessment instrument was valid and reliable. We then began developing workshops and supports to help practitioners use this tool effectively for assessment and improvement. The Youth PQA and related supports form the basis for network quality improvement initiatives across the country. The Youth PQA was also a critical part of the multi-state Quality Counts initiative.
Between 2006 and 2009 the William T. Grant Foundation funded the Youth Program Quality Intervention study, a randomized control trial of this systematic approach to quality improvement.
TODAY, Weikart Center youth program quality improvement efforts are underway in 29 city or county-wide networks and 11 statewide initiatives.