The Impact of Early Childhood Education Print E-mail

Charlie Biggs, Operations Director

As we start the new year, I'd like to highlight a new study, "How Does Your Kindergarten Classroom Affect Your Earnings?" (PDF), which found that how much children learn in their early years has a profound effect on their adult lives.

Previous studies have suggested that the benefits of early childhood education wear off by middle school or high school. In the new study, however, a team of economists from Harvard, Northwestern, and UC Berkeley followed a group of 12,000 Tennessee kindergartners into adulthood for the first time. The results were dramatic. According to a New York Times summary,

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.

The study does not explain why kindergarten makes such a big difference. But its leader, Harvard economist Raj Chetty, noted in an interview with National Public Radio that

[Kindergarten] teachers use basic skills that you might use later in life, like how to study hard, how to focus, patience, manners, things like that, in addition to better academic skills. And all these things have a long-term payoff.

If one year of a good traditional kindergarten can have such a profound effect, imagine what three years in a Montessori Primary program can do. In a Montessori class, "kindergarten" is not a separate experience, but the culmination of a three-year developmental and educational process designed to strengthen all of the skills that Chetty emphasizes. In addition, as Ms. Woodard has shown, the Montessori Primary curriculum meets or exceeds state kindergarten standards in every area. So if Chetty and his colleagues are right, Montessori students should have an even greater long-term advantage - especially if they do all three years of the Primary program.

When you enrolled your child at KMS, you probably hoped you were helping to prepare them for future success. Chetty's study suggests that this is, in fact, the case. As Chetty himself put it in his NPR interview, "It makes sense to invest resources in trying to get your child into the best classroom."

Links

"How Does Your Kindergarten Classroom Affect Your Earnings?" (PDF); Raj Chetty, Harvard; John N. Friedman, Harvard; Nathaniel Hilger, Harvard; Emmanuel Saez, UC Berkeley; Diane Schanzenbach, Northwestern; Danny Yagan, Harvard; July 2010 - http://obs.rc.fas.harvard.edu/chetty/STAR_slides.pdf

"The Case for $320,000 Kindergarten Teachers"; David Leonhardt; New York Times; July 27, 2010 - http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/28/business/economy/28leonhardt.html?_r=2&src=me&ref=homepage

"Want To Make $1,000 More A Year? Try Kindergarten"; NPR Staff; National Public Radio; August 14, 2010 - http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129187436

"How Did Kindergarten Affect You?" Holly Epstein Ojalvo; New York Times; The Learning Blog; July 30, 2010 - http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/30/how-did-kindergarten-affect-you/

"What About Parents?" David Leonhardt; New York Times; Economix; August 1, 2010 - Http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/01/what-about-parents/#more-75556

 

 

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