Regular readers will recognize two recurrent themes at Outcomes. First, central to our thinking is identifying teachers, and the value of teaching, as core to the educational experience. Second, technology has a huge role to play in improving education by providing a set of tools that support teachers and in providing teachers the ability to scale what they do.

But why do we think scale is so important?

Let’s consider some numbers Stanford University published a few years ago in “Valuing Teachers: How Much is a Good Teacher Worth?” The author sought to translate the impact teachers had on the earnings of individuals entering the U.S. labor force, and from there, the impact on the U.S. economy as a whole:

  • The average American can expect lifetime earnings from full-time work of $1.16 million
  • A student one standard deviation above average in educational performance can expect a corresponding earnings increase of 10 to 15 percent over this period
  • Which is to say, an increase in educational achievement affects lifetime earnings from $110,000 to $230,000

Think about how teachers fit into this: Multiple studies consistently show that effective teachers not only have an immediate, positive impact on their students, but these impacts are durable, too.

Research shows that if we take a good teacher, one whose results are simply half a standard deviation better than the average of their peers, their students can expect an increase in their lifetime earnings of $10,600.

Put that teacher in a classroom with 20 kids, and their students’ total aggregate earnings increase by $212,000. These are not trivial amounts, and one has to wonder what might happen if there was some way to get this particular teacher in front of more students?

Until recently, the boundaries on this sort of thought experiment would have it end here: The physical limits of a classroom’s size, and the need to teach vs. simply lecture inherently limit the ability of a good teacher to scale.

However, we’re focused on developing technology that takes that current upper limit — 20 or 30 students, say — and allows that good teacher to do what it is they are doing with 200 or 300 students.

Suddenly, our thought experiment becomes dramatically more impactful, and it doesn’t end here, either. Because the same technology can not only scale good teachers, it also can be used to deliver the tools, training, and support necessary to make a good teacher great.

So if our good teacher, already responsible for $212,000 in increased value to his or her 20 students now taught a class of 200, that value becomes $2.12 million. And if that same teacher’s skills can be honed so that their students see a full deviation of improvement, that number doubles again, and we’re well over $4 million in economic value.

These are real numbers, and carry a lot of weight around here when we think about the future of education — weight that has everything to do with scale.

Learn More: Click to view related resources.