Mr. Chetty and his colleagues — one of whom, Emmanuel Saez, recently won the prize for the top research economist under the age of 40 — estimate that a standout kindergarten teacher is worth about $320,000 a year. That’s the present value of the additional money that a full class of students can expect to earn over their careers. This estimate doesn’t take into account social gains, like better health and less crime.
That's from a New York Times article summarizing impressive new research by Raj Chetty, John Friedman, Nathaniel Hilger, Emmanuel Saez, Diane Schanzenbach and Danny Yagan.
Here's a graph of their key results:
Students were randomly assigned to classrooms over 20 years ago, making this a valuable experiment. The results reflected a combination of teacher quality, smaller classrooms and peer effects.
We would be better off if we paid our teachers a lot more, and attracted more of the best and the brightest to this profession.