Forget about the quality of the AP calculus teacher. Apparently it's the kindergarten teacher who has the greatest impact on a student's success. So, Miss Juanita Kunkel, thank you.
A study that has not yet undergone peer review finds that some kindergarten teachers helped students learn far more than others and that the effect of the good teaching lasted up till junior high or so, then disappeared. But the study, which looked at how 12,000 kids who'd been part of a major experiment in education in the 1980s were faring today, found that those with really good kindergarten teachers were more likely to go to college, make more money, look ahead by saving for retirement -- and less likely to be single parents -- than those who did not have exceptionally fine teachers. Pretty amazing.
So, in going through a pile of old papers, I recently found my kindergarten report card. Miss Kunkel really brought me along -- from "making satisfactory progress" to "doing very well" in a range of activities, from taking part in games to showing interest in picture books. She couldn't nudge me forward, though, in art activities or working and playing well with others.
All in all, I haven't done too badly in life. Here's to the kindergarten teachers!