At a home visit earlier this week, my younger daughter’s kindergarten teacher told me her class would start with just 13 kids. We were sad that some beloved friends would be moving on, but there was a bright side — small kindergarten classes mean more individualized attention and instruction from the teacher.
In fact, a recent study funded by the National Science Foundation found that a small class size in kindergarten can actually boost a child’s future earning potential by $2,000. At a time when districts are cutting back on non-essential programs, this study shows that investing in early childhood education is more important than ever.
Researchers identified 12,000 kindergarten students in 80 schools across Tennessee, then followed up with them when they reached age 30. Here’s what else they found:
- Kids who make significant progress on standardized tests in kindergarten made about $1,000 more per year at age 27 than students who did not.
- Being in a small class for two years increased a child’s chances of attending college by two percent.
- Having an above average kindergarten teacher meant kids went on to earn about $900 more dollars a year as adults than students of average teachers.
- Disadvantaged students were more likely to attend college if they attended small kindergartens.
- Students who scored in the 60th percentile or above were also less likely to become single parents, were more likely to become homeowners in their 20s, and were more likely to build a nest egg for retirement.
While there may be other factors that affected these outcomes unrelated to kindergarten, research shows that a positive early childhood experience is crucial to a child’s education. Today’s kindergartens are more academically challenging than ever, and more kids are going full-day all the time — even more reason to remember that this crucial first year of school counts.