By Holly Lebowitz Rossi
January 06, 2012

Elementary and middle-school teachers are instrumental in determining whether children will go to college, become teen parents, and earn a good salary, a large new Harvard University study has found.  The study, which was conducted by a research team of economists, followed 2.5 million students over 20 years and tracked their educational, social, and economic progress, concluding that the higher quality a child's teachers, the healthier and more productive their life path.

On an individual level, the study found the differences in teacher quality to be relatively minor; a single student with a single excellent teacher between grades 4 and 8 is only 0.5 more likely to attend college than a student with an average teacher, and that student would only gain $4,600 in added lifetime income.  But on the broader spectrum, researchers say improving teacher quality can make an enormous difference; for example, replacing a poor teacher with an average one could increase the lifetime earnings of a single classroom by $266,000

Image: Teacher with students, via Shutterstock.

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