A recent UN report has highlighted the average American worker’s productivity – about $8000 higher per year than the runners up in Ireland. That’s nice for the average Americans, I suppose, but what about me? I’m pretty sure that my productivity last year as a high-school teacher wouldn’t show up in that UN report. Was I simply an economic parasite?
Teachers’ main economic contribution is to their students’ future earnings, so this seems a reasonable standard for measuring my real productivity. According to the Employment Policy Foundation, graduating from high school will, on average, benefit each worker about $305,000 over a lifetime. That’s right – graduates benefit about $76,000 for each year of high school. Like a lottery jackpot, this quickly earned benefit will be spread over their lifetimes.
But how much did my course benefit these kids? At my school in Tucson, students needed twenty credits to graduate, so I could claim to produce only 1/20 of their total benefit. This equals about $15,000 per student, and I taught 133 of them. So, were all to graduate, my course would have benefited them around $2 million. Sadly, some students don’t graduate. Since my school had a success rate of 87 percent, the economic benefit that one year of my class produced was about $1.8 million.
Of course, we have to subtract costs. My district spent around $800,000 for my 133 pupils. My course could claim about 1/5 of this total. Thus, it contributed a net of $1.6 million to my students’ future earnings.
That, by the way, is almost $14,000 per graduating student. If I had earned the average pay in my district, my take for each of the five periods that I taught would have been $9333. That means that the average student benefited about $4500 more than I did from being in my class.
But other staff deserve some share of the credit for this benefit. Divvying up credit with them requires much more of a judgment call. Let’s attribute a generous fifty percent to the efforts of these non-teachers: I still come out incredibly productive.
And these figures ignore other economic benefits of a secondary education – most notably, the ability of graduates to go on to college and earn even more.
So my hat’s off to those gold-medal-winning, average American workers, who paid me through their taxes. But $800,000 or more of productivity for a teacher’s salary? That’s platinum.
What do I want in return? My otherwise grateful students have selfishly refused to tithe me a portion of their earnings. So throw me a bone – pay more attention to indicators of future productivity, such as education, or even to the infrastructure of productivity, such as baristas. Without us, you soon would be bowing before your Irish masters.
– Investing in Future Statistics