Launching Project RESPECT


Official Department of Education Photo by Leslie Williams

“Our goal is to work with educators in rebuilding their profession—and to elevate the teacher voice in shaping federal, state and local education policy,” said Secretary Duncan today at the launch of the RESPECT Project. “Our larger goal is to make teaching not only America’s most important profession—but America’s most respected profession,” he said.

The RESPECT Project (Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching), is a national conversation led by active classroom teachers working temporarily for the Department to help provide input on the administration’s 2013 budget proposal, and on the broader effort to reform teaching.

The Obama Administration’s 2013 proposed budget includes a new $5 billion competitive program that would challenge states and school districts to work with teachers, unions, colleges of education and other education stakeholders to reform the teaching profession.

“We need to redefine what it means to teach in today’s global economy,” Duncan said. “Because what you learn in school today is the foundation for what you will need to know tomorrow to be successful.”

Click here (pdf) to read more about the RESPECT Project, and sign up for our Teaching Matters newsletter for regular updates on the teaching profession and future information about the RESPECT Project.

Read Secretary Duncan’s remarks at the event.

View the archived video of today’s launch.

Visit our RESPECT Project homepage.


  1. After reading the outdated quote from George Bernard Shaw “He who can does. He who cannot, teaches” , I was reminded of a much better quote that defines what we teachers do – “Others do because teachers teach.”

  2. If we are going to assert that the profession of teaching, and we absolutely should, then we must trust that those with the proper qualifications can do the job. There must be evaluation, but not so stringent that either no one could possibly meet them every day or so lengthy that it renders the data virtually useless.
    In addition, hiring practices absolutely must be reformed. I have been passed over for positions for candidates that have less education and/or experience than I. Upon investigation I have learned that nepotism is alive and well in the education system, at least in my area. I do not doubt that it is a plague that inhabits many rural school systems. Often districts know who they are going to hire before the posting ever goes up for the public. This is a question of integrity. And while you can not get into a person’s head and know for sure if they are telling the truth, you can investigate and find hard evidence of unfair hiring. It must be done.

    As long as districts (at least in my state) can devise their own teacher evaluation systems, they will continue to build loopholes through which they can conveniently slide in order to push out teachers they do not “want” in their system, for whatever reason. This happens in spite of the fact that the evaluation tools must meet national standards.

    ALSO, I can not stress enough how much high schools need as much funding and support as early education. Moreover, technology that is purchased “on the fly” and slapped into a classroom will not help anyone. Especially in a classroom with a teacher that is unwilling to use or learn to use it.

  3. We don’t need to “train” teachers. We need to hire smart teachers, get out of their way and let them teach.

    This means we need to “respect” teachers but also teacher applicants and substitutes.

    We can best accomplish this by reining in the departments of education, the testing companies and anyone else who impedes real education.

    • The testing companies have got to go. We likely need campaign finance reform for that. I’m sure they have lobbies!

  4. Does this plan intend to raise the respect level for other professionals working in schools or just teachers? Maybe looking at some of these professions, how they are educated, trained, and mentored could provide some lessons for the teaching profession.

  5. I believe this effort is exactly what the profession needs. All I want to know is…how do I join the conversation. I hope the RESPECT project addresses the various items that have debilitated the profession including poor business practices, funding, TFA, alternative certification routes, and poor professional development.

  6. I teach at a high school in Oakland CA. Our school has several career pathways and academies. I teach a class called “Introduction to Education” in our Education Academy. My 10th graders learn how to design lessons and manage classrooms in preparation to teach in our cooperating elementary schools. In addition, we learn about multiple-intelligence theory and learning modalities as students discover their preferred way to learn. We explore teaching and non-classroom careers in the field of education. We explore hot-topics in public education as well as imagine what the future of public schools can/should look like.

    I am very interested in rethinking the teaching credential system. I think that we local schools need deeper partnerships with our local colleges and universities. Classroom teacher-leaders, should work part-time with university faculty training the next generation of teachers.

    Being a mentor teacher for a pre-service/apprentice teacher should be a honor and a difficult position to win. School principals should not look for volunteers at a staff meeting days before the start of the year. Instead, classroom teachers should have to apply for mentor positions and demonstrate that they are a good match with an apprentice.

    I’m looking forward to participating in this continued conversation. I think it is well-past the time to stop tightening the controls around teaching – and get some control around teachers. Finland has some lessons we can learn from. Their teacher-training program are very difficult to win entrance to. They are multi-year, steeped in research and practical training, and rigorous. Best of all, they are fully funded by the state. This means that, unlike American teacher candidates, Finns do not have to go deep into debt to pursue a calling that does not promise much financial reward. Once Finnish candidates earn their MA and license, they are trusted to be responsible guardians of their nation’s future.

    We desperately need this kind of trust and respect of our teachers.

    • Thank you all for responding to the ideas behind Project RESPECT.

      To those who have expressed interest in being part of the National Conversation on Teaching, please email us at TeachTalk(at) so that we can let you know when there will be conversations in your area. (@Dave, one of our Fellows just carried out a bunch of conversations in Oakland this past week. I’m so sorry we missed you, but we can put you in touch with others out there who will be continuing it….) You may also want to sign up for our Teaching Matters newsletter at to follow the conversation.

      To those sharing questions or examples of where great training, support, and retention of teachers is taking place, thanks for contributing. As the Secretary spoke to during the launch event, this is meant to be the start of a discussion – we know that there are lots of places where great things are happening and we know that lots of teachers have been in the decisions that impact them and their classrooms. Project RESPECT is an opportunity to learn from those great examples and questions you raise, and hopefully for more teachers to feel that they are adequately supported to do what is hard and intellectually challenging work. So, keep the questions and comments coming!

      Cameron Brenchley
      Office of Communications and Outreach

  7. Really? I WAS respected and I had a voice prior to NCLB and RTTT. Teaching has always been about preparing children to learn and become productive members of a democratic society as if somehow that wasn’t the case before? It’s insulting to hear someone talk about elevating teachers who has done nothing but silence our voices, ignore us in curriculum and assessment decisions, and trash us in the press. Please see the PRO TEACH program at UF…that has been the mission since the early 80s. This is so condescending it makes me heartsick.

    • Well said, Rosemarie, well said.

      Good points, Norm.
      ISherrod, I agree – let the teachers in on the process.
      that was/is one of the problems of NCLB.
      And Dave – people who are working in schools NOW running unique programs that work – need to be given credit for going above and beyond. I teach an alternative program – the usual methods do not work. That said, the students still need to know how to write legibly, organize their thoughts to make themselves understood, and to behave as a human of respect and dignity in society – starting with manners to begin with. Good dialogue. Hope it continues.

    • Schools need to be privatized, and ran like a business. We need to clean house and get rid of the teachers that do not care, which there is a lot of. Our schools do nothing but waste time by teaching needless things. What about teaching stuff kids will need know for the future, like home econ., shop classes, vo-ag, etc.
      Public unions need to end as well. Bad teachers are protected by them, and bargaining rights are bankrupting schools. If schools were ran like a business, the management would be able fire the bad teachers and reward the good ones. They will be able to decide whether or not to give a raise if you deserve it. You all forget that you are servants of the people and your wage comes out of the taxpayers pocket. Its not all about you, its about our kids future.

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