Good or Bad, Teachers Can Skew Your Lifetime Earnings

Good or bad teachers can skew your lifetime earningsRemember the best teacher you had in grade school? According to a new study, that teacher might well have increased the lifetime income of you and your classmates by $400,000. Remember the worst teacher? That teacher could have diminished the classes' lifetime earnings by the same amount.

A paper by researcher Eric A. Hanushek of Stanford University attempts to place a cash value on the impact of good and bad teachers in schools. Why? In part because he found that other ways that teachers are measured and rewarded seem to have little correlation to student achievement.Hanushek writes that differences in teacher experience in the classroom (after the first three years), advanced degrees, other intensive professional development, class size, and salary level all show little correlation to student achievement. In fact, he states that the characteristics that differentiate a good from a poor teacher, as measured by student achievement, haven't yet been conclusively determined.

He does, however, believe that the improvement or diminishment of student achievement can be measured from year to year, and has a lifetime cash value.

How much money, in the long run, could your child make or lose by spending one classroom year with a good or bad teacher? Hanushek bases one set of estimates on a teacher that manages to raise his or her class's cognitive ability from average to 10% above average.

Assuming a class size of 25, this teacher would have increased the lifetime earnings of those 25 students by a total of $132,288. If the teacher was able to increase the student's ability to 34% over average, this would result in a whopping $532,781.

Sadly, a below-average teacher could diminish lifetime earnings of these students by the same amounts.

The author's paper presents a strong argument for results-based teacher evaluation (and reward) that will no doubt beg debate.

His notion that the quality of every teacher your child has will impact his or her lifetime earnings, however, seems uncontroversial yet eye-opening.

Diligent parents, after reading this paper, might vow to make sure that their children are getting the best teachers possible every year; even one year in a substandard classroom could cost the child big money in the long run.

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