Obama to Improve Teacher Quality With RESPECT Project

In an attempt to elevate the teaching profession and boost instructional quality in the classroom, President Obama and the Department of Education are set to launch the teacher-led national RESPECT (Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching) project.

As part of Obama’s 2013 budget proposal, the Department of Education will host a $5 billion competitive program to challenge states and districts to work with teachers, unions, colleges of education and other stakeholders to comprehensively reform the field of teaching.

The proposed program looks to examine and improve every aspect of the teaching profession – from training to tenure.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan will launch the RESPECT Project, which will be led by classroom teachers working temporarily for the Department to help inform the administration’s proposal and the broader effort to reform teaching.

Duncan said:

“Our goal is to work with teachers and principals in rebuilding their profession and to elevate the teacher voice in federal, state and local education policy.  Our larger goal is to make teaching not only America’s most important profession, but also America’s most respected profession.”

The proposal echoes the sentiments of Obama’s State of the Union speech, where he said:

“Give [schools] the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones.  In return, grant schools flexibility:  To teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.  That’s a bargain worth making.”

While the details of the program will be developed with Congress, the proposal aims to reform:

  • Teacher colleges, making them more selective
  • Career ladders for teachers, and creating new ones
  • Linking earnings with performance rather than just longevity
  • Teacher compensation for working in challenging environments
  • Making teacher salaries more competitive with other professions
  • Improving professional development and providing time for collaboration
  • Increasing teachers autonomy in exchange for greater accountability
  • Building evaluation systems based on multiple measures, not just test scores
  • Reforming tenure to raise the bar, protect good teachers, and promote accountability

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said:

“This effort will require the entire educational sector — states, districts, unions, principals, schools of education — to change, and teachers have to lead the change.

“We need to change society’s views of teaching – from the factory model of yesterday to the professional model of tomorrow – where teachers are revered as thinkers, leaders and nation-builders. No other profession carries a greater burden for securing our economic future.  No other profession holds out more promise of opportunity to children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.  And no other profession deserves more respect.”