by Patrica Rose
Last week, in his New York Times Economic Scene column, David Leonhardt discussed recent research out of Harvard on the importance of a strong kindergarten teacher.
What makes this research different is that it was conducted by economists, who looked not at the short-term effects (test scores and the like) but at the earning power of subjects in their twenties. And they found (doing follow-up on a study from the 80’s) that a 5 year old with a good kindergarten teacher then was making $1000 a year more now than a comparable student whose kindergarten teacher was not classified as “good.” Thus the economists predict that a standout kindergarten teacher is worth $320,000 a year, if you take the increased earnings an entire class will amass over their careers. Such economic benefits are substantial, and cannot be overstated.
Leonhardt goes on to advocate for higher pay for teachers, and while I am in favor of that, it is not my point here. Rather it is to thank all those who choose teaching for a career: my mother and my own teachers, long since retired and many deceased, my children’s teachers at Germantown Friends School, starting with their own kindergarten teacher, a wonderful man who was indeed a standout, and all our Penn grads who are now in the classroom, including those who learned their craft at the Graduate School of Education, and the many other Penn alums who have chosen teaching as a career, or have decided to begin their professional lives in teachers’ corps programs like Teach for America. We are proud of our 43 Class of 2010 alumni who are busy preparing to enter the classroom this fall with TFA. All of you will have a lasting effect on your students’ lives – and maybe even their paychecks!