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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Do Kindergarten Teachers Matter?

I can barely remember anything about kindergarten, even the teacher's name:

The Case for $320,000 Kindergarten Teachers, by David Leonhardt, Ny Times: How much do your kindergarten teacher and classmates affect the rest of your life? ... Great teachers and early childhood programs can have a big short-term effect. But the impact tends to fade...— which raises the demoralizing question of how much of a difference schools and teachers can make.
There has always been one major caveat, however, to the research on the fade-out effect. It was based mainly on test scores, not on a broader set of measures... As Raj Chetty ... says: “We don’t really care about test scores. We care about adult outcomes.”
Early this year, Mr. Chetty and five other researchers set out to fill this void. They examined the life paths of almost 12,000 children who had been part of a well-known education experiment in Tennessee in the 1980s. The children are now about 30...
On Tuesday, Mr. Chetty presented the findings — not yet peer-reviewed — at an academic conference... Just as in other studies, the Tennessee experiment found that some teachers were able to help students learn vastly more than other teachers. And just as in other studies, the effect largely disappeared by junior high... Yet when Mr. Chetty and his colleagues took another look at the students in adulthood, they discovered that the legacy of kindergarten had re-emerged.
Students who had learned much more in kindergarten were more likely to go to college than students with otherwise similar backgrounds. Students who learned more were also less likely to become single parents. As adults, they were more likely to be saving for retirement. Perhaps most striking, they were earning more. ... Over time, the effect seems to grow, too. ...
Now happens to be a particularly good time for a study like this. With the economy still terribly weak, many people are understandably unsure about the value of education. ...  But.... Education itself can make a difference. ...
Mr. Chetty and his colleagues ... estimate that a standout kindergarten teacher is worth about $320,000 a year. ... This estimate doesn’t take into account social gains, like better health and less crime. Obviously, great kindergarten teachers are not going to start making $320,000 anytime soon. Still, school administrators can do more than they’re doing. ... Given today’s budget pressures,... that’s all the more reason to focus our scarce resources on investments whose benefits won’t simply fade away.

    Posted by on Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 01:08 AM in Economics | Permalink  Comments (120)


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