Kindergarten Teachers Worth $320,000 per Year

kingergarten-teachers-worth-320000-dollarsKindergarten teachers often provide a child’s first taste of school, and a good teacher can impact a child in extremely positive ways. But this positive influence has been thought to dissipate by middle school, a “fade out” that’s manifest in test scores. But test scores don’t indicate adult success.

Harvard economist Raj Chetty set about to find other means of assessing the long-term effects of a good kindergarten experience. “We don’t really care about test scores. We care about adult outcomes,” he explained. He presented his findings on Tuesday, which focused on students who had participated in an experiment in Tennessee. Conducted in the 1980s, the young adults are now in their 30s. The experiment provided excellent data because the students were from widely varying backgrounds were randomly assigned to kindergarten classes, allowing for a good randomized sample.

By high school, students who received excellent kindergarten instruction performed about as well on standardized exams as students with average or poor kindergarten experiences. But the lives lead by the young adults who participated in the experiment as children revealed a different story. Students who had shown academic improvements due to good kindergarten teachers were more likely to go to college, were less likely to become single parents, and were more likely to be saving for retirement. They also out-earned their peers.

Although the researchers do not claim to have uncovered the direct causal relationship, it’s easy to hypothesize that learning skills like discipline and patience at a young age are key to success later. For every percentile above average a child improved on tests during their kindergarten year, they can expect to earn an additional $100.00 at the age of 27. By extension, Chetty and his colleagues estimated that a great kindergarten should be worth $320,000 a year.

Via the New York Times.

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6 Responses to “Kindergarten Teachers Worth $320,000 per Year”

  1. pcb says:

    Another indication of the limits of standardized test scores as a predictor for much.

  2. blanche says:

    I lived in a poor neighborhood with an excellent Head Start program. My kids very much fit the mold of this study, and have done much better than their poor cousins in another part of the country without an equivalent program. I feel vindicated!

  3. nancyb says:

    This is a first-class piece of research. The dependent variables make so much sense in terms of societal relevance that it’s a wonder they haven’t been selected as measures before. The long-term timeframe is also a plus. Finally, good news for doing the right thing!


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