Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Article: The Importance of Early Childhood Education

The New York Times article by David Leonhardt The Case for $320,000 Kindergarten Teachers is certainly an eye-catching title, but I wondered what the article was about... It turned out to be pretty good. The basic premise is that Kindergarten makes a huge difference in the making of the adult (we know this in Montessori, so it is always interesting when others research it).

As Raj Chetty, a Harvard economist, 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, well started on their adult lives.

They go on to focus on the money side of things, which, well, is easier to count than other things:

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.

All else equal, they were making about an extra $100 a year at age 27 for every percentile they had moved up the test-score distribution over the course of kindergarten. A student who went from average to the 60th percentile — a typical jump for a 5-year-old with a good teacher — could expect to make about $1,000 more a year at age 27 than a student who remained at the average. Over time, the effect seems to grow, too.

I was disappointed that they didn't discuss Montessori, but, of course, the research focused on the end result.

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