High-quality Early Educators are “Worth” Over $300,000 Per Year

An article published Tuesday in The New York Times revealed some recent findings by a group of economists who looked at the lasting positive effects of high-quality Kindergarten teachers. While looking at individuals who participated in a Tennessee early education experiment in the 1980s, the researchers found that as adults those who were taught by a high-quality Kindergarten teacher earned more, were less likely to be single parents, and went to college more frequently than those who were taught by a lower quality teacher. This, they argue, is evidence for “The Case for $320,000 Kindergarten Teachers.”

Several researchers and analysts have discussed how high-quality early education can produce gains- but that these gains fade-out by third grade (see our early blogs on this topic here and here). This fade-out phenomenon is often used to argue against investments in high-quality early education programs. However, much of the data used to support fade-out effects is based only on academic test scores. Do academic test scores alone measure the value of high-quality early education? Should other skills that are taught in early education classrooms- like motivation, perseverance, and social-emotional skills- be considered? This group of economists thinks so. Their research looks at other outcomes- like job salary and education completion- and shows positive, long-term gains due to high-quality early education.

Check out the article here and let us know what you think a high-quality early educator is “worth.”

A Summary of Early Education Studies

Do high-quality early education programs positively impact children’s cognitive, social, and emotional development? Do these programs affect cognitive, social, and educational outcomes long-term? Do immediate positive effects “fade-out” by third grade? For many years, researchers have tried to answer these questions- with contradictory results at times.

In response, the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) recently analyzed 123 early education studies that have been conducted over the past five decades. This meta-analysis compared results and found that overall, the research showed significant positive cognitive, social, emotional, and school progress benefits for children who attended high-quality early education programs. Researchers completing the meta-analysis also found substantial positive effects on educational achievement, special education, grade retention, and social behavior at ages 10 and higher for the same children. Read more about the study here or watch researcher W. Steven Barnett discuss the results in a video.