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Project Follow Through

Project Follow Through was the most extensive educational experiment ever conducted. Beginning in 1968 under the sponsorship of the federal government, it was charged with determining the best way of teaching at-risk children from kindergarten through grade 3. Over 200,000 children in 178 communities were included in the study, and 22 different models of instruction were compared. The communities that implemented the different approaches spanned the full range of demographic variables (geographic distribution and community size), ethnic composition (white, black, Hispanic, Native American) and poverty level (economically disadvantaged and economically advantaged). Parent groups in participating communities selected one approach that they wanted to have implemented, and each school district agreed to implement the approach the parent group selected.

Follow Through had strong safeguards to assure that the participating districts actually implemented the approach it adopted. The government provided stipends to supplement local budgets and support the implementations and also provided comprehensive health services, including a nutritional component, plus medical-dental care.


Evaluation of the project occurred in 1977, nine years after the project began. The results were strong and clear. Students who received Direct Instruction had significantly higher academic achievement than students in any of the other programs. They also had higher self esteem and self-confidence. No other program had results that approached the positive impact of Direct Instruction. Subsequent research found that the DI students continued to outperform their peers and were more likely to finish high school and pursue higher education.

Follow the links below to get additional information on Project Follow Through, including its design, the findings, and what happened with the results:

Athabasca University online module on Direct Instruction Evidence: Project Follow Through.

Siegfried Engelmann describes the Follow Through experiment, the results and the aftermath in a chapter from his book, Teaching Needy Kids in our Backward System (ADI Press, 2007).  

A special issue of Effective School Practices published in 1995-96 described Project Follow Through and its implications for current generations of students.

Shepard Barbash describes the design and outcomes of Project Follow Through in his book Clear Teaching.

Staff of NIFDI's Department of Research and Evaluation have prepared a comprehensive pdf bibliography  of writing related to Direct Instruction and Project Follow Through.

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