According to a recent report by the Strategic Data Project out of Harvard University, National Board Certified Teachers make an enormous impact on their students. To wit: “On average, NBCTs outperform other teachers with the same levels of experience by 0.07 standard deviations in elementary math.” While that might mean something to you, I was not the “numbers guy” in my family. That would be my brother Steve. Fortunately, the Strategic Data Project saw me coming and offered this translation: “These effects are roughly equivalent to two months of additional math instruction.”

If that’s true – and I have no reason to doubt Harvard University – that means that the State of Washington is getting an enormous bargain. Let me try to explain:

First we have to accept elementary math data as a proxy for general teaching effectiveness. We also have to assume that the data can be generalized from Los Angeles, where the study was conducted, to Washington, which is where I live. I see no reason why we can’t accept either premise. So we can presume that NBCTs in Washington are having a positive effect equivalent to two additional months of instruction. Two months of instruction is roughly 20 percent of the school year, which means that NBCTs are 20 percent more effective than their non-NBCT colleagues.

The average teacher’s salary in Washington is about $50,000.
Let’s assume for now that compensation is provided as an exchange for the
effect teachers have on their students. If NBCTs have a twenty percent greater
effect on students than non-NBCTs, it stands to reason that NBCTs are *worth* twenty percent more. If I’m not
mistaken, twenty percent of $50,000 is $10,000. Therefore, in a perfect world,
NBCTs should be earning $10,000 more.

They aren’t. In Washington State, NBCTs receive an annual stipend of $5,090. There are currently 6,173 NBCTs in our state. Paying them each a bonus costs us a little over $31 million. Obviously, that’s not nothing, but apparently it’s only half of what they’re worth. Washington State is getting more than its money’s worth. Twice as much.

That’s what I call a bargain. And it’s something worth remembering as the legislative season heats up and lawmakers are looking for stuff to cut.