Eric Hanushek's work popped up earlier this month in our blog discussion of how the U.S. isn't producing enough smart kids and how spending more on teachers might boost our kids' math scores. Dr. Hanushek now offers a new paper that quantifies the economic good that may come from hiring better teachers.
According to Hanushek's research, an above-average teacher working with a class of twenty students creates $400,000 in additional student future earnings. Replacing the least effective teachers with just average teachers nationwide would add $100 trillion of value.
I welcome suggestions as to how we identify and recruit higher-quality teachers. But free market rules suggest that attracting quality is relatively straightforward: you get what you pay for. As I apply for jobs that pay $60K rather than $30K, I get the impression that I'm up against a tougher talent pool.
So just imagine: Suppose South Dakota raised its average teacher pay by $10,000 (which would vault us in our national ranking from dead last in teacher pay to 41st place). Suppose that pay boost drew and kept some better talent. If that increased incentive to enter the field replaced only one out of 40 average teachers with above-average teachers, we'd break even on our investment.