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Quality Kindergarten Influences Later Education


What should an top kindergarten teacher be paid? In theory, the New York Times reports, around $320,000 a year. Clearly, that salary is in dream-on territory. But as Times economics writer David Leonhardt writes, recent research strengthens the argument for identifying the best early-year teachers and paying them well. Past studies have found that whatever advantage students got from having excellent teachers early on faded by junior high school, according to analyses of test scores. But a new Harvard study found that students who had strong teachers when they started school reaped benefits later on. More went on to college, and they earned more than their peers whose kindergarten teachers were mediocre. The study followed a cohort of 12,000 Tennessee students from the 1980s who are now around 30.

Leonhardt says the study is the latest in a strong body of research that finds that education does pay. And he takes to task conservative pundits who claim it doesn’t, saying they too often cherrypick convenient facts and rely on anecdotal evidence. He notes that Labor Department statistics show that the earnings gap between college grads and nongrads grew to a record level last year, while nongrads were much more likely to be hit by unemployment in the recent downturn. Where did that $320K figure come from? The Harvard study says that’s the present value of the additional income a full class of students will likely earn over the course of their careers.

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