Friday, July 22, 2011

Chicago Economist’s ‘Crazy Idea’ Wins Ken Griffin’s Backing

Speaking of the importance of parental interventions vs. schools, this is a fascinating study that's underway:

John List, a University of Chicago economics professor, strides through the Griffin Early Childhood Center chatting with teachers, complimenting girls on their braids and hollering out the window.

He acts like it's his school, and in many ways, it is. The preschool in the low-income suburb of Chicago Heights is the centerpiece of one of the largest field experiments ever conducted in economics, and it's List's brainchild.

With $10 million from hedge-fund billionaire Kenneth Griffin, List will track the results of more than 600 students-- including 150 at this school. His goal is to find out whether investing in teachers or, alternatively, in parents, leads to more gains in kids' educational performance, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its April issue.

…Squatting on a toddler's chair in one of the classrooms in the Griffin school, List sketches out the design of the experiment with a magic marker on an easel. Local families with kids 3 to 5 years old were encouraged to enter a lottery and were randomly sorted into three groups.

Students selected to attend the Griffin school are enrolled in the free, all-day preschool. Children in another group aren't enrolled in the school, while their guardians take courses at a "parenting academy" and receive cash or scholarships valued at up to $7,000 annually as a reward.

Lifelong Monitoring

The more than 300 kids in the third contingent receive no benefits -- nor do their parents -- and serve as a control group.

List and his collaborators, Steven Levitt of the University of Chicago and Roland Fryer of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts -- both economists with an interest in education -- will monitor the students through annual tests, attendance records and graduation rates.

As the students move into adulthood, their employment, pay and criminal records, if any, will also be tracked. While early results from the experiment may be published as soon as this year, the project has money to follow the students "until they die," List says.

The Griffin experiment may show that the U.S. doesn't spend enough on helping parents, List says. "We have too many eggs in the kid basket," says List, himself a father of five. "We need to spend much more time and many more resources on helping parents."


Chicago Economist's 'Crazy Idea' Wins Ken Griffin's Backing


By Oliver Staley - Feb 23, 2011 12:01 AM ET Wed Feb 23 05:01:00 GMT 2011

Bloomberg Markets Magazine

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