Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Get 'Em Early

As always, if you measure what you need to measure rather than what you can measure, you actually might learn something.  This article shows that better kindergarten experiences may not produce long-lasting improvements in test scores, but might actually produce better life outcomes.
As Raj Chetty, a Harvard economist, says: “We don’t really care about test scores. We care about adult outcomes.”
So, what is going on?
The economists don’t pretend to know the exact causes. But it’s not hard to come up with plausible guesses. Good early education can impart skills that last a lifetime — patience, discipline, manners, perseverance. The tests that 5-year-olds take may pick up these skills, even if later multiple-choice tests do not.
MC Exams are best at testing MC exam taking skills.  The other thing going on here is that you enjoy your first tastes of the educational system with great kindergarten teachers (like my daughter did in our one year in Virginia), it might create more enthusiasm and interest in learning.

As an educator, I, of course, buy into these results due to self-interest and identification.  The broader context?

Barely a week seems to go by without a newspaper or television station running a report suggesting that education is overrated. ....  But the anti-education case usually relies on a combination of anecdotes and selective facts. In truth, the gap between the pay of college graduates and everyone else grew to a record last year, according to the Labor Department, and unemployment has risen far more for the less educated.
When I was teaching American (and Texas) Public Policy, I would always show some graphs on education levels and pay, and the gap between college graduate and high school graduate was always quite steep.  So, I would point out that my class, required for graduation, was going to make all the difference between different lifetime outcomes.  Good to know I am still right about that.

Of course, the bigger problem is not necessarily measuring the outcomes of the kids but the quality of the teachers and the programs.

But more data, studied by folks with good educations, help to make sense of what is going on.  Well, as long as it confirms my biases.

No comments: