For What It’s Worth

What is the value of a good teacher?  It turns out that we have some, if partial, answers to this question.  In some really interesting research, economists sought to quantify the importance of improving teacher effectiveness.  They began with the assumption that improving teacher effectiveness would have positive and life-long impacts on the quality of the lives of students.  Their assumption was correct.  The impacts are significant beyond what we may think.  Incidentally, the benefits have very little to do with any specific content knowledge.  That is, the benefit of a high quality math teacher does not terminate with a student's better understanding of math.  Instead the affects of a more effective teacher appear in somewhat surprising and far-reaching areas.

Benefits of increasing teacher effectiveness

  1. Increased college attendance
  2. Increased lifetime earnings
  3. Decreased teenage birth rates
  4. Raised socio-economic status of community
  5. Increased retirement savings

In short, we clearly see that increasing teacher effectiveness has a tremendous impact on our economy.  In real numbers, the economic benefit of a teacher who is 1 standard deviation above the median is roughly $4,600 per student.  That would be $138,000 for a class of 30 (Chetty, Friedman, Rockoff, 2011).  In a very real and measurable way, the benefits of a highly effective teacher last for the rest of the students' lives.


Chetty, R., Friedman, J. N., & Rockoff, J. E. (2011). The long-term impacts of teachers: Teacher value-added and student outcomes in adulthood (No. w17699). National Bureau of Economic Research.

Hanushek, E. A. (2011). The economic value of higher teacher quality.Economics of Education Review, 30(3), 466-479.