Kindergarten Teachers Worth Their Weight in Gold

More, actually- about $320,000 a year.

Wow.

How is this figure derived? It is the present value of the additional money an entire class will earn over the course of their careers.

Previously it had been thought that great teachers and early childhood education programs had only a diminishing and short-term effect on test scores but researchers wanted to look at real world outcomes and set about examining the lives of almost 12,000 children who participated in an education experiment in Tennessee (Project Star) in the 1980s.

The children (now about 30) who learned more in kindergarten, were more likely college educated and saving for retirement, less likely to become single parents and were earning more than students with similar backgrounds.

But are these kids who did well on kindergarten tests destined to do better, regardless of their teacher and classmates?

In this experiment, kids were randomly assigned to a class so there was a similar socioeconomic mix of students and the expectation they would perform similarly on tests at the end of the school year. Class size, the impetus of the Tennessee experiment, affected the results (smaller classes did better than larger classes) and in classes with a slightly higher average socioeconomic status, all the students tended to do better but, the variation in class performance was so great, the only factor remaining was the teacher.

These findings have yet to under peer review but the practical question is what happens next? Education is notoriously underfunded so how do you allocate these limited resources in the best possible way? The Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers will be introducing performance based incentives and the flip side is being able to get rid of bad teachers.

I should talk to friends of mine who are teachers. The union is very powerful and they tend to protect their own. There is political dynamite associated with any measures to act on findings such as this, special self-serving conflicting interests and all.

The idea that great kindergarten teachers can have a lasting impact on the future of an individual is very seductive. It will be interesting to see if these findings hold under scrutiny.

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~ by angryegg on July 28, 2010.

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