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A Teacher’s Worth

How much money are teachers really worth?  Most of us can agree that they should make more than they do and some people are trying to put a dollar amount on their contribution to society. 

A post has been circulating around Facebook and we caught up with a version posted on Daily Kos.  It calculates the amount a teacher would make if he were simply being paid $3 per hour per child for babysitting services during the school day.  The total is a six figure salary that might surprise you.

The January 25th, 2011 Planet Money podcast on NPR talks about the worth of public school teachers, “the key to America’s greatness.”  The podcast highlights the work of Eric Hanusheck, an economist who researches education.  In a recent study, he put a monetary value on good teaching.  He says it’s hard to tell what makes a really good teacher but he uses consistent test score improvement as evidence of quality teaching. 

He lists an effective teacher as one who can consistently help her students improve their test scores over the course of a year, year after year, in comparison to teachers in the same school who teach children from the same families whose students do not show improvement year after year.

A top teacher will transmit a year and a half of learning to her students in an academic year and a bottom teacher will get only half a year of learning in an academic year.  That’s a huge gap in learning between the students of the two teachers.  These results seem to remain consistent with the same teachers over years of data collection, marking some as high performers. 

High performing teachers tend to produce high performing students and statistically, high performing students tend to make more money over their lifetimes than low performing students.  As they enter the work force and earn more, the country’s GDP and the economy improve.

Hanusheck says a good teacher adds $500,000 in earnings and productivity to the economy in the course of a year.

The least effective teachers, whose students score worse on tests at the end of the year than they did at the beginning of the year, have a huge negative effect on the GDP in our country.  The numbers are staggering.

I wonder if those top tier teachers will ever see a bigger piece of that income they’re generating for our economy.

Kathryn Thompson is a mom to two school-aged kids, a toddler, and a deceased betta fish. She can also be found at The Parenting Post, and occasionally the gym.