Focusing On Kindergarten


In the 1980s, more than 11,000 kindergartners in Tennessee took part in a study on early childhood education. The students were randomly assigned to classrooms — as were the teachers — and student test scores were collected each year. The randomization allowed researchers to study what impact classroom size and teacher experience had on the rest of the students’ primary education. But researchers stopped tracking the students once they entered high school.

John Friedman is an assistant professor of public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School. He and his research colleagues wanted to know how those students — now in their late 20s — were doing now, and what impact their kindergarten years had on their lives today. The researchers found that while a strong kindergarten experience may not have a profound effect on the rest of your primary education, it has a measurable impact on your later life — including on college attendance and salary.


  • John Friedman, asssistant professor of public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government
  • Janice Satlak-Mott, kindergarten teacher at Stratton Elementary School in Arlington, Mass.
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