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NBER Report: Great Teachers Are Worth $400,000 A Year

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How much is a good teacher worth? Some would say they're priceless, but recent findings in the National Bureau of Economic Research's The Economic Value of Higher Teacher Quality, is a bit more exact. The report, written by Eric A. Hanushek, suggests that quality teachers with 20 students are worth $400,000 more in the future earnings of their students than an average teacher, annually.

Hanushek examines how the quality and effectiveness of a good teacher can impact a student's future success and how this achievement can effect future economic outcomes for the country as a whole.

According to his calculations, it isn't just that good teachers are worth a lot when considering our economic future as a country; alternatively, bad teachers are costing us trillions. Hanushek says that by exchanging the bottom 5-8 percent of crummy teachers with average teachers, the United States, as a country, could jump up the ranks to top in math and science, generating an astounding $100 trillion in present-day value. Hanushek writes:

The policy of eliminating the least effective teachers is very consistent with the McKinsey analysis of the policies found in high-performing school systems around the world (Barber and Mourshed 2007). Their analysis suggests that the best school systems do not allow ineffective teachers to remain in the classroom for long.

His research brings up a huge concern, no matter your take on educational policy and reform; emphasizing the necessity for good teachers means much for the country's economic future.

However, education policy reformers aren't left with a simple solution. These numbers leave much up for debate. The writer suggests that we fire the lower percentile of bad teachers, which opens a pandora's box of battles with teachers unions committed to teacher tenure.

Further, the ultimate measurement for teacher effectiveness remains unclear. Standardized testing appears to be the most obvious solution. But if teachers begin to fear being fired by being in the bottom percentage, they could refocus their efforts on standardized tests again or also choose to work in higher-performing schools, where they won't have to worry about low test scores

Matthew Di Carlo, senior fellow at the Albert Shanker Institute blogs in a section of the Washington Post against Hanushek's proposed solution:

Instead of trying to fire our way to the high performance of Finland or anywhere else, why not try to emulate the policies that these nations actually employ? It seems very strange to shoot for the achievement levels of these nations by doing the exact opposite of what they do.

These findings also unearth another debate regarding teacher salary; if good teachers are worth more, should they be paid more? Adam Ozimek, blogger on Modeled Behavior, gives us his opinion:

This means we should be willing to pay more for good teachers, but it also increases the benefit of getting rid of bad teachers and ensuring we have a system that can do that. After all, every dollar spent on a bad teacher has the high opportunity cost of good teachers.

With such startling findings, and many questions needing solutions, there is still much up for debate.

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