Everything We Need to Know We Learned in Kindergarten
The New York Times published an explosive story regarding the unequivocal long-term benefits of high-quality education in early grades. The article highlights a study in which researchers tracked 12,000 Tennessee students participating in Project STAR from the time they entered school in the 1980s until they reached their 30s. Previously, researchers thought that the effects of early-childhood education dwindled over the course of a few years. However, researchers broadened their scope to include adult outcomes such as marriage, income, saving for retirement, etc.
The researchers found that students who learned much more in kindergarten were more likely to go to college, less likely to be single parents, and have higher incomes. In addition, based upon income figures, if you extrapolate the data to reflect the extra earnings for an entire class of students assigned to a highly-effective teacher, a “standout” teacher would be worth $320,000 (which doesn’t take into account better health outcomes and less crime). This study comes at an extremely critical juncture in school reform efforts since numerous school districts and states are ending the common practice of treating kindergarten teachers like widgets and instead identifying and compensating teachers based upon effectiveness, whose benefits we now know extend well beyond one year of instruction.
Delaware policymakers must begin looking at ways to either raise or reallocate funds in order to make this critical investment. In addition, we should begin utilizing a wealth of data collected from DPAS II and DCAS to identify the knowledge, skills, and abilities correlated with high student achievement and then use that information to inform conversations on the policies and practices that will help teachers raise student learning in kindergarten statewide.
Inevitably, the naysayers will ask how we can afford this type of investment in this troubled economy. The more pertinent question is, how can we not?