A long time colleague, Kali Woodward, Director at American Youth Literacy Foundation, sent a link to a New York Times article - The Case for $320,000 Kindergarten Teachers. The article describes a Harvard study following 12,000 kindergartners for twenty five years and confirms, as many other studies do the long-term impact of early experiences, in this case the value of good a Kindergarten teacher.

The first rung on the ladder holds up the rest. The very early stages of human development provide the foundation for all that follow. As is our habit and social conditioning the research paper focused on Kindergarten Teachers and concluded that the impact of a ‘good one’ translated into lifelong learning and earning potential (in children and therefore long term economic impact) valued at $320,000/year.

Students who had learned much more in kindergarten 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.

All else equal, they were making about an extra $100 a year at age 27 for every percentile they had moved up the test-score distribution over the course of kindergarten. A student who went from average to the 60th percentile — a typical jump for a 5-year-old with a good teacher — could expect to make about $1,000 more a year at age 27 than a student who remained at the average. Over time, the effect seems to grow, too.

Using the same standards – what does this say about a ‘good parent’ – or better still a dynamic and continuing learning-growing partnership between good parents and good teachers? Digging deeper – Kindergarten – age five – is well down the developmental road. What about the experiences and relationships a child has at age three, or the first year in-arms, or birth, during pregnancy, conception and before? What impact do these learning-growing experiences have on the GNP?

The social system and the systems it creates assume that parents are more or less absent. The absent parent, one routinely replaced by system trained-and-certified professionals, is denied the hands on mentoring and experienced-based peer support they need to continually grow and expand right along with their developing children. A stagnant parent in terms of human development – struggling to make ends meet, replaced more or less by professionals, and an exploding-learning child is not the best combination.

Great teachers are worth every penny. Great learning-growing parents are worth more.

Michael Mendizza