Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Everything important I learned in kindergarten

Today's NYT summarizes research by a team of five economists on the long term impact of early childhood programs.  The title gets your attention: "The Case for $320,000 Kindergarten Teachers."  To get a hold on the old question of whether class size affects learning, Tennessee assigned students randomly to kindergarten classes many years ago, with the classes varying significantly in size.  There were profound differences in learning; students in small classes learned more at the end of the year than those in large classes.  However as the students were tracked in later years the learning differences washed out, based on test score analysis.  Conclusion: good kindergarten teachers and small classes can help in the short term but they have no lasting effect.

The more recent research asks a broader and, I believe, more relevant question: are there any differences in adult outcomes that can be related to different kindergarten environments? The five researchers find that students who learned the most in kindergarten were more likely to have graduated from college, less likely to be single parents, more likely to be saving toward their retirement, and were earning more than those who learned the least.  Perhaps the most important lessons of kindergarten (the article notes "patience, discipline, manners, perseverance") are the most valuable for later in life. 

No comments:

Post a Comment