Inquiry Magazine Northwestern School of Education and Social Policy


In this issue: The Power of Education

Alese Affatato Photo By Andrew Campbell

Alese Affatato (MS04) teaches kindergarten at Nixon School in Chicago. Research by associate professor Diane Schanzenbach shows the lifelong importance of a quality kindergarten classroom.

Penelope Peterson

Message from the Dean

Dear Friends,

Three of my grandparents came to this country from Sweden, speaking little English when they arrived. My maternal grandfather was born in the United States to a father who immigrated from Sweden. My grandparents believed strongly in the power of education to change lives. For example, even though neither of my maternal grandparents attended college, all eight of their grandchildren did, and I was the first grandchild to earn a doctoral degree.

My story is far from unique. Many of you reading this message probably come from families with similar narratives. Public discourse today focuses directly on the value of education, specifically at two levels — early education and college. In his State of the Union Message last month, the president of the United States advocated strongly for preschool education for all. In the March 3 editorial of the Chicago Tribune, the president of Northwestern University, a scholar of the economics of higher education, argued persuasively for the value of a college education.

In this issue of Inquiry, we explore the power of education — both in the early years and at the postsecondary level — to improve lives. In the first article, we consider the research of education economist Diane Schanzenbach, who has studied the long-term effects of education in kindergarten and found surprising long-lasting positive influences of early education on later life. Those who experienced a higher-quality kindergarten were more likely to earn more, attend college and have retirement savings than those who had a lower-quality kindergarten experience. In the second story, we investigate one aspect of college education in our School that might make postsecondary education particularly powerful — an immersion experience in the form of a practicum in which undergraduates bring the research and theory they have learned together with problems of policy and practice in the real world. All students in our School have such a required practicum experience in their junior years, and in this article they discuss what they learn from these experiences.

In the final piece, we consider an innovative new program that tries to leverage the effects of both early education and postsecondary education through creating two-generation programs that educate both the preschool child and the parent at the same time. Such two-generation programs aspire to create synergy between early education for children and job training and postsecondary education for their parents with the idea that together, parents and children will be engaged in new learning that will change their lives and improve their circumstances.

In closing, as we progress toward Commencement 2013, we look forward with joy to congratulating those hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students who will be receiving their degrees from our School. While we continue to live in uncertain times, the future looks very bright for those students entering the workforce armed with an excellent postsecondary education, especially those graduating from Northwestern!

Sincerely yours,

Penelope Signature
Penelope L. Peterson, Dean