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How Much Should Teachers Make?

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof points to a new Harvard study finding that good teachers—as defined by value-added test score analysis—have a profound long-term effect on students. According to the study, he notes, an average-size 4th grade class with a strong teacher will go on to earn $700,000 more in their life times (in total) than a class with a poor teacher. Gleaning the potential policy implications, Kristof says the study demonstrates 1) that we need to provide higher pay to good teachers and 2) that value-added ratings do in fact "reveal a great deal about whether a teacher is working out."

Meanwhile, in an Education Week Commentary, think tank scholars Jason Richwine and Andrew G. Biggs defend their argument that the "average public school teacher already is paid more than what he or she is likely to earn in the private sector." But the contrast from Kristof may not be as great as it appears: Richwine and Biggs also advocate for "shifting more funds toward the best teachers."

Update Jan. 17: Not surprisingly, the study Kristof highlighted in his column has caused a stir. A brief, bare-bones summary is here. In an Education Week Commentary, meanwhile, former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee argues that the findings essentially refute the argument "a teacher's ability to help kids make gains on tests doesn't amount to much" and should prompt us to "rethink how we assign, retain, evaluate, and pay educators." At the same time, education policy bloggers Matthew Di Carlo and Bruce Baker, in extremely detailed posts, question the conclusiveness of the study and caution against jumping to policy prescriptions.

I expect we'll be hearing more ...

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