Friday, December 31, 2010

How much is a good teacher worth?

I was forwarded this article from the Huffington Post on the value of a good teacher.   I've been doing alot of thinking about this lately.   What is the value?    And does it do us any good to think of teachers in these market based terms?

How much is a good teacher worth? Some would say they're priceless, but recent findings in the National Bureau of Economic Research's The Economic Value of Higher Teacher Quality, is a bit more exact. The report, written by Eric A. Hanushek, suggests that quality teachers with 20 students are worth $400,000 more in the future earnings of their students than an average teacher, annually.
Should teachers think of their value in this way?   Should the public?  It's nice to think I might impart a little value on my students' lives.   However, I've never really considered it to be a pecuniary one.

Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist has spent some time considering these questions in one of his books, Predictably Irrational.   In chapter four on social norms, he considers the problem when social norms and market norms cross paths.   It's  a fascinating read that has me thinking about what I do at work and why I do it.   A summary of the chapter is below:

I know that there has been a lot of work put in to change the way society thinks of teachers.  Mostly it's been a market based approach.   Teachers after all, have long been undervalued in the market.   So to attack this inequity it makes sense to demand more compensation.   I appreciate that this path has lead to more pay for teachers.   I wouldn't be one if that were not the case.  However, I think there may also be some negative consequences of this framing.   Teachers are not quite revered in American society.   Was this different 30 years ago?   100 years ago?   I don't know.    Would the public think differently about teachers if they weren't constantly asked to think about teachers' salaries?   What about teachers?  I do not think we want teachers thinking about their hourly or minutely contributions in terms of it's market value.   This leads teachers to come late and leave early.  But I think these are important questions to consider when thinking about evaluation systems that will create a better work place environment.

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