Kindergarten Teachers Are Priceless
August 17, 2010 4:16 AM   Subscribe

The Student Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR) project was a large-scale, four-year, experimental study of reduced class size. This year researchers examined the life paths of almost 12,000 children (now adults) from Project STAR. They found [PDF] the kids who learned more in kndergarten were more likely to go to college, less likely to become single parents, more likely to be saving for retirement and they were earning more. They estimate that a standout kindergarten teacher is worth about $320,000 a year in extra income for the entire class. The NYT Has More.
posted by Blake (32 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Reduced class size = more teachers = more money = problems with conservatives who will spend a dollar if and only if it kills (or threatens to kill) a brown person.
posted by DU at 4:46 AM on August 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


They estimate that a standout kindergarten teacher is worth about $320,000 a year in extra income for the entire class.

Yeah. Good luck with that. Until the schools are run by something other than the public, teacher's salaries will still be dirt and they'll never get the proper respect they deserve.
posted by crunchland at 5:09 AM on August 17, 2010


Put that teacher's salary in a bank account with interest instead and you'll have more than the $320,000 a year after those kids have grown up.

(Interesting study though.)
posted by cronholio at 6:22 AM on August 17, 2010


The finding here isn't so much that small class size matters as good teachers matter. Obviously, for supervision's sake, 5 year olds especially need lots of contact with adults. Still, imagine classrooms with a master teacher and one or a few novice teachers or teachers' aides. More importantly, imagine a much better and more rigorous process for recruiting and training better elementary teachers, spurred by paying them more and giving them more responsibilities.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 6:25 AM on August 17, 2010


People up here in Maine (elected people) have been recently complaining that student/teacher ratios are too small. They were actually using the phrase too low. Can you believe that shit? TOO LOW?

"Dammit, my car gets too many miles per gallon! I could have a crappier engine and saved myself ten bucks!"

Some people should be shot is all I'm saying.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:28 AM on August 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Can you believe that shit? TOO LOW?

Yeah ... I won't rest until the ratio is 1:1 ... and anyone who disagrees with me hates children.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:37 AM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't know much about the education debate, but when people say teachers are paid too little, how much do they generally think teachers should be paid?
posted by ChrisHartley at 6:48 AM on August 17, 2010


Civil_Disobedient: "People up here in Maine (elected people) have been recently complaining that student/teacher ratios are too small. They were actually using the phrase too low. Can you believe that shit? TOO LOW?"

The potentially legitimate concern here basically comes down to opportunity cost: there are often cases in which students would be better served in a larger class if that teacher were better. Making better teachers costs money - you have to pay them more or train / develop them better - and so there could be a legitimate argument that the state is spending too much money on teacher quantity and not enough on teacher quality. The literature is mixed on the impact of class size on student achievement, but even if that impact is significant, the impact of a better teacher is probably higher.

Also, your link indicates the problem with the ratio announced wasn't that it was too low in the sense of being sub-optimal, but that the ratio publically released was inaccurate.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 6:51 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


ChrisHartley: "when people say teachers are paid too little, how much do they generally think teachers should be paid?"

The metric I always use is "enough to convince more graduates in the top third of their graduating class to pursue teaching" as happens in other countries with top school systems. There's a raging debate on how to get there (pay all teachers more; pay teachers in hard-to-staff areas like STEM, special ed or poor schools more; pay teachers based on performance; some combination of above).
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 6:54 AM on August 17, 2010


Until the schools are run by something other than the [American] public, teacher's salaries will still be dirt...

Here in Ontario we pay teachers quite well, although they still complain it's not enough.
posted by rocket88 at 6:57 AM on August 17, 2010


ChrisHartley: when people say teachers are paid too little, how much do they generally think teachers should be paid?


I would need to investigate more for any policy proposals on a optimized pay scale/system, but as a personal issue I think for teachers the median annual wages, excluding bonuses, should be ~$73,150 with the middle 50 percent earning between $54,930 and $99,100. The lowest 10 percent should earn less than $43,440, and the highest 10 percent should earnmore than $141,070.

But again, as public policy that might not be optimal. That is a completely personal, visceral opinion.
posted by Chipmazing at 7:04 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


cronholio: "Put that teacher's salary in a bank account with interest instead and you'll have more than the $320,000 a year after those kids have grown up."

I want to know where you're banking.
posted by Riki tiki at 7:15 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Helen Pate-Bain, Ed.D., Chairperson for HEROS, Inc., is an active principal investigator on several projects. A retired professor of Educational Administration, she is a Past President of the National Education Association (NEA), was a classroom teacher for more than 25 years, and founded the internationally recognized Student Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR) Project.

Just so's ya know.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:28 AM on August 17, 2010


Not surprised at all. This goes hand in hand with other research I've read that states that one of a child's biggest indicators of how well they will do in school/career is based on whether their parents read to them when they were toddlers.

Also, another interesting indicator that SREB (Southern Regional Education Board - the High Schools That Work people) use in their workshops is that in some states future prison populations are determined by third grade reading levels.

There's a rich opportunity with kids to get them the skills they need when they're young and I think this was probably the rationale with all the Head Start programs. Having taught the gamut of Kindergarten through 12th in my teaching career, I personally find this to be so. It's much easier to help and shape a kinder mind that is still just learning everything for the first time than to work with high school students who have lots of missing skill gaps.

When I was teaching Kindergarten (at a private school), I once used my pyramid analogy with a parent of a child who really needed to repeat Kindergarten (the little guy just wasn't getting it). I stressed that you can't build the rest of his education on an incomplete foundation - so much of elementary is based on what you learned the previous year. (If you don't know subtraction, you can't possibly long-divide kind of thing).

Unfortunately the parent was more concerned about what people thought of her son being held back rather than giving him a solid foundation. (insert Charlie Brown AIRGH frustration here)
posted by NoraCharles at 7:31 AM on August 17, 2010


The big problem with this is that they seem to be defining successful education by how much the kids make later. The guys running Goldman Sachs all had college degrees, made plenty of money, had fat retirement accounts, and probably had wonderful kindergarten experiences. I'm not sure they fit my definition of successful though.
posted by COD at 7:52 AM on August 17, 2010


The quality of the teacher matters a lot as well: [Quote]:
After a single year with teachers who ranked in the top 10% in effectiveness, students scored an average of 17 percentile points higher in English and 25 points higher in math than students whose teachers ranked in the bottom 10%. Students often backslid significantly in the classrooms of ineffective teachers, and thousands of students in the study had two or more ineffective teachers in a row.
posted by DreamerFi at 8:18 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


The potentially legitimate concern here basically comes down to opportunity cost

Like I said, think of all the things I could do with the ten bucks saved by buying a crappily-designed, less fuel-efficient engine!

The literature is mixed on the impact of class size on student achievement, but even if that impact is significant, the impact of a better teacher is probably higher.

"Even if that impact is significant?" Dude, as the song goes, that's what it's all about! And the difference is that student/teacher ratios can actually be measured. Unlike "teacher good / teacher bad" where you have to wait 20 years to see if there's any difference and oh yeah pay no attention to the three billion other circumstances that happen in the interim that could possibly play some role in success or failure.

Also, your link indicates the problem with the ratio announced wasn't that it was too low in the sense of being sub-optimal, but that the ratio publically released was inaccurate.

Actually, the link was about how some (right wing) groups were using the lower ratio to defend the assertion that the ratio is too low, while other groups are maintaining the ratio isn't actually the lowest in the country, just one of the lowest.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:34 AM on August 17, 2010


Civil_Disobedient: "And the difference is that student/teacher ratios can actually be measured. Unlike "teacher good / teacher bad" where you have to wait 20 years to see if there's any difference and oh yeah pay no attention to the three billion other circumstances that happen in the interim that could possibly play some role in success or failure."

Unaltered, our current system of teacher recruiting and placement hurts poor kids by giving them the worst teachers. Giving poor kids more of the worst teachers doesn't cause the revolutionary sea change the system needs. Paying teachers who teach in poor schools more, on the other hand, causes that change by convincing more highly qualified adults to choose teaching, and causes more teachers to choose poor schools. Class size tweaks were incredibly in vogue in the 1990s, and they don't seem to have worked.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:43 AM on August 17, 2010


... how much do they generally think teachers should be paid?<>

My wife is a teacher, and while there are some slackers (as there are everywhere), I don't know anyone who works harder, longer hours for less.

posted by patrick rhett at 8:44 AM on August 17, 2010


Disclaimer: She did not teach me to use tags.
posted by patrick rhett at 8:46 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


The guys running Goldman Sachs all had college degrees, made plenty of money, had fat retirement accounts, and probably had wonderful kindergarten experiences. I'm not sure they fit my definition of successful though.

Your definition of successful probably wasn't what they were going for.
posted by ryanrs at 9:46 AM on August 17, 2010


Until the schools are run by something other than the public, teacher's salaries will still be dirt and they'll never get the proper respect they deserve.

There are plenty of schools run privately, by churches and secular businesses... they generally are paid significantly less than public school teachers, at least in my area, because they're not unionized.

the median annual wages, excluding bonuses, should be ~$73,150

That's within a couple of thousand of what I get paid teaching first grade in California, and I'm pretty happy with my pay.
posted by Huck500 at 10:11 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


A good teacher is far more beneficial to numerous students, than a poor teacher is to a few. My personal experiences.
posted by SollosQ at 10:49 AM on August 17, 2010


they generally are paid significantly less than public school teachers, at least in my area, because they're not unionized.

Since the teachers are paid less those schools' reults must not be as good ...

... right?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:56 AM on August 17, 2010


results
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:56 AM on August 17, 2010


I don't know much about the education debate, but when people say teachers are paid too little, how much do they generally think teachers should be paid?

I don't buy into the idea that teachers are, in general, underpaid, but to answer your question:

A teacher in mid-career should be earning enough to support a basic middle-class lifestyle. The exact number will, of course, vary with the location of the school.

But before I focused on a salary number for teachers, I'd look at the seemingly endless administrative tiers (with correspondingly higher wages) and the unsustainable pension/retirement costs.
posted by madajb at 12:00 PM on August 17, 2010


cronholio: "Put that teacher's salary in a bank account with interest instead and you'll have more than the $320,000 a year after those kids have grown up."

No you won't. If you invest $50,000 at five percent (very generous return right now) for twenty years, you'll end up with $132,000 in principle when they're 27, on which to generate interest of say $7,000. It doesn't matter how you tweak the salary or return, your math is just bogus. It's an interesting argument though. So let's reframe it:

"Analyst upgrades Kindergarden teachers to market outperform."
posted by pwnguin at 12:28 PM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you invest $50,000 at five percent (very generous return right now) for twenty years, you'll end up with $132,000 in principle when they're 27, on which to generate interest of say $7,000.

And note that $320K is in 2010 dollars, but the $132K in the bank in that example will be in 2030 dollars. So assuming a 2% rate of inflation, that class is getting $475K more income, as opposed to $132K in capital by not paying for a better teacher.
posted by eriko at 1:17 PM on August 17, 2010


Okay guys, I got it. I didn't do the math and (for once) overestimated the influence of compound interest.
posted by cronholio at 12:37 AM on August 18, 2010


Put that teacher's salary in a bank account with interest instead and you'll have more than the $320,000 a year after those kids have grown up.

I read the study a couple of days ago but I think the $320,000 is net present value.
posted by miyabo at 9:02 AM on August 18, 2010


What bothers me about the "good teachers matter" bit, and the subsequent effort to fire all the "bad" teachers is that the definition of "good teachers" tends to focus highly on the test scores. Oooh, look: good teachers lead to much better test scores... because we are defining good teachers by the test scores. When you look closer at the evaluation metrics that these "good teachers matter more than anything" studies, like Hanushek's, good teaching isn't nearly as stable a characteristic as it needs to be to justify treating people as if this is written in stone (i.e. teachers rated as highly effective one year might not be the next).
The truth is that education is a classic example of a multiply caused outcome. Everything matters, and not in simple, additive ways. What a kid learns in kindergarten matters a lot, but so does if they get fed regularly, so does class size, and so does who their parents are, and so does whether their parents read to them, and so does how many books they have in the house (even if their parents don't read to them), and so does their genetics, and so does.... etc etc.
If we swapped all the poorly paid private school teachers and the apparently better paid public school teachers, would the test scores also swap? Of course not. No one thinks that, but just the same you get ridiculous reformers citing an economist who says that a good teacher matters more than a good school, more than poverty, more than anything, and then trying to fire as many bad teachers as they can and hire as many Ivy Leaguers as they can, because of course, if you go to Harvard, you can do anything well (I say this very sarcastically, having gone to Harvard, and being well aware of the many things that I can't do well).
Good teachers should be paid more, but I think if you actually asked these awesomely valuable kindergarten teachers what they wanted, what drew them to the profession and what would keep them in the profession, you would find that their motives are not identical to the generic top third of the graduating class. I think smaller classes, more resources, and better working conditions might actually top the "I want more money crowd." I tend to think the kindergarten teachers of the world, even the great ones, didn't choose it for the money. Although they should be compensated for their work, I don't think we need to treat it as if money is the only incentive worth talking about.
posted by cogpsychprof at 8:36 PM on August 18, 2010


Since the teachers are paid less those schools' results must not be as good ...

... right?


Actually, you're right:

From a study about this very topic... link to a story about it.

The study found that while the raw scores of fourth-graders in Catholic schools, for example, were 14.3 points higher than those in public schools, when adjustments were made for student backgrounds, those in Catholic schools scored 3.4 points lower than those in public schools.

and

The study found that self-described conservative Christian schools, the fastest growing sector of private schools, fared poorest, with their students falling as much as one year behind counterparts in public schools, once socioeconomic factors such as income, ethnicity and access to books and computers , were considered.

Because the students at my school are in the same socio-economic class as those who go to expensive private schools, they're a good match for comparisons... and they do just as well or better, even though my school can't kick out those rich kids who have learning issues of all kinds, unlike the private schools...

I know some teachers who aren't that effective, though, and some teach in public schools and some in private. I don't know what the solution is when you're dealing with such a huge number of people who do a job that's difficult, if not impossible, to quantify.

Another recent study found that 80% of teachers would have to be fired after two years to ensure effective teaching in every classroom... there just aren't enough people for that, unless you make teaching the most desirable profession in the universe.

Here it is:

How many teachers would school reformers have to fire in order to get American schools performing at their best? That's the question researchers Doug Staiger and Jonah Rockoff set out to answer in a study they presented at the Columbia conference.

The researchers went through a simulation exercise, building on prior findings about the impact that great teachers have on their students, the fraction of incoming teachers who turn out to be strong performers in the classroom, and the "signal-to-noise" ratio in a teacher's performance during her first couple of years (i.e., how hard it is to tell whether a teacher is bad or just unlucky).

When they ran the numbers, the answer their computer spat out had them reviewing their work looking for programming errors. The optimal rate of firing produced by the simulation simply seemed too high: Maximizing teacher performance required that 80 percent of new teachers be fired after two years' probation.

posted by Huck500 at 6:41 PM on August 22, 2010


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