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Sunday, April 21, 2013

What is the long term impact of Pre-school teacher on your child?

Here is an interesting study done by Raj Chetty and his Harvard Kennedy School associates such as John Friedman. Such longitudinal studies ( studies done of a student from pre-school years to late work-life) are rare.Read this summary of the report.

This study was done in 1980's. About 12,000 students were involved in the study done in US. Children were randomly assigned to teachers, not selected on any criteria. These children were tracked for next 30 years.

Four key findings of the study

First, students in small classes are significantly more likely to attend college and exhibit improvements on other outcomes. 

However, Class size does not have a significant effect on earnings at age 27, but this effect is imprecisely estimated. It has been always assumed that small class size matters to students. However, as we have seen in earlier study, small class sizes do not improve the quality of education. This is good for Indian schools, where class sizes are large. 

Second, students who had a more experienced teacher in kindergarten have higher earnings. 

The earning effect was measured at increase in earnings of about 1000 US $ at the age of 27. This effect will naturally increase with age and experience, which was not measured by the study.

The study could not find the 'type of teachers' who affect the students most. It could find only one variable that mattered: the experience of teacher. What this probably means is that, experienced teacher gain the necessary patience and 'wisdom' to view 'child as child' and therefore tend to be better teachers. 

Third, an analysis of variance reveals significant classroom effects on earnings. Students who were randomly assigned to higher quality classrooms in grades K-3 – as measured by classmates' end-of-class test scores – have higher earnings, college attendance rates, and other outcomes.

This random assignment is important because this randomisation eliminates other differences like parental status, rich background or educational background. This means that teacher impacts a student's life more than other attributes such as parental background. 

Finally, the effects of class quality fade out on test scores in later grades but gains in non-cognitive measures persist. This finding is very important, but not-so surprising. 

This only reminds us that development centric schools are more important than learning-centric schools in the long run.  Students attributes such as manners, ability to focus and self discipline matter more than the learning attributes like IQ and talent.


Most interesting finding of the study, according to me, is that the effect of a good pre-school teacher vanishes in 7th and 8th grade. And it re-appears in the work-life. In other words it has long term impact.

As Raj Chetty says, ' A good kindergarten teacher teaches skills like how to be a disciplined student'. These developmental qualities matter more in the long run although they may not show in the learning scores immediately.

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