E4E’s Advice to Schools: To Keep Great Teachers, RESPECT Their Careers

After earning her law degree while teaching full time, Lori Wheal thought she might leave the field of education. She had spent 10 years as a middle school teacher in the Bronx and was tired. Thanks to low pay, little respect, and limited opportunities for growth, she was at a crossroads. Should she leave a profession she truly loved for something more financially lucrative and well-respected?

Before Lori had to make that decision, she was encouraged to apply for a new position at her school as a master teacher. In this role she would teach fewer classes and spend the remainder of her time observing and mentoring her colleagues. She got the position and returned to M.S. 391 in the fall. “That position is what kept me in the classroom,” Wheal said. “If I hadn’t had this opportunity, I would have left the entire system.”

Teachers from E4E’s Pay Structure Policy Team present recommendations from their report on teacher compensation.

Teachers from E4E’s Pay Structure Policy Team present recommendations from their report on teacher compensation.

Providing career lattices that give excellent teachers opportunities to lead in their schools is just one of Educators 4 Excellence’s (E4E) recommendations in their new report on teacher compensation. “A New Way to Pay: Reimagining Teacher Compensation,” penned by 16 New York City teachers on E4E’s Pay Structure Policy team, suggests that a different compensation structure can elevate the teaching profession. Their recommendations include increasing starting pay to $60,000 and providing incentives for promising candidates to teach hard-to-staff subjects.

Many of the recommendations made in the report align with the U.S. Department of Education’s RESPECT Project, which stands for Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching. The project seeks to engage teachers, school and district leaders, teachers’ associations and unions, and state and national education organizations in a much-needed transformation of our profession.

I had the opportunity to attend the release of E4E’s report and participate in a panel discussion about their recommendations. The room was filled with more than 100 teachers who chose to spend a schoolnight discussing education policy. They probably had papers to grade, families to call, and their own lives to lead, but they decided to join their colleagues in a conversation about elevating their profession.

I was truly inspired when I left the room. I was also reminded that we, as teachers, need to be involved in education policy at every level. Alongside unions and other associations of educators, more policy-focused organizations like E4E and programs like the Department of Education’s Teaching Ambassador Fellowship must exist at the school, local, and state levels. How do we ensure that teachers have a voice in creating policies that affect our students and our profession? How do we challenge states and districts to make these opportunities the norm? Our future depends on it. We can’t afford to lose more teachers like Lori. Neither can our students in the Bronx.

Geneviève DeBose is a Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow on loan from Bronx Charter School for the Arts in New York City


  1. I applaud the RESPECT PROGRAM in giving teachers a voice to express their dissatisfaction of the best education system in the world . I am not even thinking of being recognized as an educator with increase pay or a teacher of the year award .I am asking Secretary Duncan what is being done to engage and reengage our marginalized families in valuing the education that is being offered each day in their schools? Mr Secretary, please, if we do not fix the disorganized families , our best school reform programs will continue to be a failure and achievement gaps will only continue to widen for our low performing students. Norm made a great comment on April 6th in reference to our foreign students and their academic performance in our colleges . Of course, these students perform well, because they have a strong supportive community known as a family . Mr Secretary, if we as educators continue to ignore the importance of the family and student success , we will race to the bottom in educating our children.

  2. If the teacher has ability,
    There is “recruiting” from other schools.
    The teacher computer-related in Japan is so.
    If they are rewarded with a salary,
    Wanting to continue educating you in the same area
    I think that anyone is the same.

  3. Right now, once a school district decides a teacher does not have the right stuff, they are marked and can’t return. This allows bad administrators to get rid of good teachers forever even when the administrators change. If this policy were changed, good administrators could restore good teachers to the teaching ranks and get rid of the bad teachers who were put there by bad administrators.

  4. The RESPECT Project is a good step in the right direction. Including educators in any conversation about education, and especially in a conversation about the teaching profession, is critical to its success. Please realize that this exact ‘conversation’ is not new. FWIW, some of us did these same discussion topics in the 1990’s. 🙂

  5. Physicists have indicated that America will lose its competitive edge in science if schools and colleges remain on the current track.

    Why does all of this come as a surprise? Our colleges and universities are dominated by foreigners with big egos while our high schools are filled with roly-poly 30-somethings with squirrel nuts for brains.

    When a smart person with a background in math or science makes it into a classroom against all odds, they are targeted for extinction or undermined in favor of special ed programs or sports programs.

    Substitute teachers with backgrounds in math and science are marginalized in favor of district politics and are fired when they speak up against unjust policies or idiotic programs.

    Rock the boat by educating the kids and you become a pariah.

  6. I am glad to see an organization stepping forward to advocate for teachers. I too feel that teachers are under compensated and unappreciated for the long hours they put in with America’s children. Children spend one third of their day in school, and for elementary kids, that is all with one individual. Teachers serve as role models for students and dedicate their lives to mold children to become good standing citizens. Yet these same people are given one of the lowest starting salaries and will require several years of tenure to be compensated equally for the amount of work they put in. A teachers day goes way beyond the 8 hours at school. When you factor in grading papers, writing tests and exams, planning projects and labs, organizing field trips, and dealing with disciplinary issues a teachers job can average 60 hours week or more.
    A program that allows teachers the opportunity to receive better pay, while doing work on a higher level is an incentive. Many people who work want opportunities for promotions and advance in their career. The incentive to move up in tenure, while having positions designed to stimulate higher thinking and skills is a great way to do this. I applaud Educators for Excellence (E4E) for their efforts. Teachers have great capacity to lead their collegues as well as their students. In order to bring in teachers with high aptitudes for math and sciences, education policy must be adjusted. Otherwise these brilliant individuals will be lost to the private sector instead of giving back to America’s children.
    I see it is important for teachers to get involved with education policy, for better pay and opportunities for advancement in their career beyond the classroom.

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