Hanushek, E. A. (2011). The Economic Value of Higher Teacher QualityEconomics of Education Review, 30(3), 466-479.
There has been a lot of talk about the qualitative value of a good teacher, but what about assigning a hard number to the value of one? There will always be debate about the methodologies used in studies that measure teacher effectiveness, but Eric Hanushek attempts to quantify the value of teachers in America by projecting the economic value of their students.
The method used is fairly straightforward and uses assumptions backed up by facts. Certain teachers consistently have students who score above average on standardized testing; students who perform well on standardized tests generally go on to earn more money over the course of their lifetime, and the number of high earners contribute positively to the nation's GDP. Hanushek suggests every effective teacher might be responsible for creating $500,000 a year to the economy.
The most striking finding of Hanushek's study is his assertion that "replacing the bottom 5-8 percent of teachers with average teachers could move the U.S. near the top of international math and science rankings with a present value of $100 trillion" of student future learning. These numbers shouldn't be ignored.
In 2008, $20 billion in bonuses were given to teachers with advanced degrees and $60 billion was given for experienced teachers. However, data shows that there is no correlation between teacher experience/degree level and teaching ability. Additionally, more and more teachers have advanced degrees. The author writes that this money should be directed toward professional development rather than unjustifiably awarded to teachers.
Hanushek concludes that despite the findings, the problem in all this remains: there is still not an adequate way to pay teachers based on performance. Alternatively, there have been calls to fire the lowest performing teachers (ignoring the inherent problems of teacher union and tenure reform) and pay higher performing teachers a higher salary, yet set at a flatter rate. However, less teachers mean bigger class sizes, and teachers might not be as effective in these settings. And thus the cycle repeats itself...
I don't think this report is too surprising, but seeing the numbers in ink make it seem more urgent. Teachers College is obviously attempting to improve teacher quality, but products like Survey Sidekick can be used to give teachers a sense of what they can improve on and videos posted to Vialogues can be used to inform teacher instruction. EdLab's advantage is in its ability to disseminate information all over the country, not just to school districts that buy into TC-backed curricula. It is this subversive attitude that might just be the thing that radically changes education in this country as we know it for the better.