The True Value of a Good Kindergarten Teacher

Last week, NBC took a look at the state of education in our country through a widely-promoted multi-media series they called “Education Nation”. I don’t often get a chance to watch TV, so I missed most of the week’s coverage, but I’d been hearing great reviews about the issues they were presenting, so I thought I’d catch up on everything online. I was very disappointed to find no coverage of preschool or infant/toddler care. In my opinion, this is a major oversight!

I did find one article on kindergarten. Specifically on the true value of a good kindergarten teacher. I don’t think it would be much of a stretch to think about the findings as applying to early childhood educators in general. The NBC article’s roots are in a New York Times article from this past July, touting the findings of  a recent study that looked at 12,000 kindergarten children in Tennessee who are now in their 30s. This study shows that children who have a good kindergarten teacher (the classes performed better than average on a standardized test):

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.

When all of this is factored in, one economist on the study team estimates that a good kindergarten teacher is worth about $320,000. Wouldn’t it be nice if the pay of early childhood educators came close to even a tenth of that value?

3 Responses

  1. As a parent I have no doubt of the value of a good quality kindergarten teacher. The ability to patiently intoduce new skills and create an enviroment for successful learning can not be discounted.
    The effective kindergarten teacher is wonderful and hard to find. Luck plays the biggest part in the placement.
    However, no matter how great the K teacher is a weak teachers in the higher grade dilute the value of the K teacher.
    ALL teachers should be trained in K instruction, demonstate high levels of success, then be allowed to move to higher grades.
    The insights into child development you get when working with K students can be used effectively in all learning enviroments.

  2. Thank you for your comment! I couldn’t agree with you more. As the environment of standards, testing and “accountability” seeps down into early childhood programs, I have often thought that things are moving in the wrong direction. Real progress would be to have the approach to teaching found in many preschools (hands-on, with real-world connections and an emphasis on cooperation and collaboration) “trickle up” to elementary and secondary schools. This holds true of assessment measures as well (evaluating children based on the knowledge they demonstrate rather than on a grade that only serves to compare students and not describe knowledge). The world of early childhood has benefited from all the current research on child development and how the brain works. Lets not disregard all of this to follow in the footsteps of a broken educational system. If fact, wouldn’t it be nice if the upper grades used and applied this knowledge as well?

  3. Every good teacher is worth that amount. Another problem is rooting out the bad teachers: disinterested, bored, fed up and tenured!

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