Great kindergarten teachers' impact on students lasts decades

“The Case for $320,000 Kindergarten Teachers”:

Mr. Chetty and five other researchers… 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…

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…

The Tennessee experiment… randomly assigned students to a kindergarten class. As a result, the classes had fairly similar socioeconomic mixes of students and could be expected to perform similarly on the tests given at the end of kindergarten.

Yet they didn’t. Some classes did far better than others. The differences were too big to be explained by randomness.

…the explanation: teachers.

Some are highly effective. Some are not. And the differences can affect students for years to come…

Mr. Chetty and his colleagues… estimate that a standout kindergarten teacher is worth about $320,000 a year. That’s the present value of the additional money that a full class of students can expect to earn over their careers. This estimate doesn’t take into account social gains, like better health and less crime.

Given a class size of 20, that’s an increase of $16,000 per student.

Posted by James on Wednesday, July 28, 2010