RESPECT Vision Released for Comment

What would it take to make America’s most important profession also America’s most valued profession?

To answer this question, 16 Teacher Ambassador Fellows — active classroom teachers working temporarily for the U.S. Department of Education — have been listening to teachers all over the country. They have held over 200 roundtable discussions with thousands of their colleagues to talk about how they envision a transformed teaching profession.

The result is a teacher-written vision document, available on our website here [MS Word, 164KB].

Click here for more information on the RESPECT Project.


  1. This coming week (May 7-11, 2012) is Teacher Appreciation Week. There will be the customary newspaper coverage of favorite teacher stories, the hashtag #thankateacher will trend on Twitter, and celebrities will post videos thanking teachers as the most important influences in their lives. These are all wonderful and appropriate tributes to the profession that prepares our nation’s youth to become productive citizens.

    But for the other 51 weeks of the year, the teaching profession is struggling under serious criticism. According to the National Education Association (NEA) website:

    There are 3,232,813 teachers in K-12 public schools, and about 16 percent of these positions become vacant each year.
    Forty-five percent of new teachers abandon the profession in their first five years.
    More teachers believe collaborating with colleagues is essential to their work, but many districts still don’t provide time for teachers to learn, share and collaborate.
    Teachers’ salaries still lag behind those for other occupations requiring a college degree, and the pay gap is growing larger.
    The teaching profession dedicated to educating the nation has done a terrible job at self-promotion. Teachers today have failed to educate the public about the value of this great vocation in the same manner that they failed to teach the value of teaching to previous generations, most notably the parents and grandparents of students in schools today. The result is that the very public that teachers need to enlist in support of the teaching profession is not confident in meeting the criticisms being leveled at educators today.

    There is increasing negative political attention turned on the teaching profession. For example, in-between statements of support for teachers, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was quoted as saying, “They [teachers] only work 180 days,” voicing the popular perception that teachers work only part time.
    Of course, there is evidence that counter his claims that teachers do not work that hard; the Wall Street Journal listed a series of facts about the teaching profession in the June 2011 article, Number of the Week: U.S. Teachers’ Hours Among World’s Longest:
    U.S. educators work 1,097 hours teaching in the classroom, the most of any industrialized nation measured by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
    American teachers work 1,913 hours a year, just shy of the U.S. average of 1,932 per year.
    U.S. teachers are slightly more likely to work at home than private-sector workers, the U.S. Labor Department found. They aren’t paid to work weekends but are as likely to do so as private-sector employees — including those scheduled to work Saturdays and Sundays.
    In my own state of Connecticut, during the February 2012 State of the State speech, Governor Dannel Malloy made a commitment to educational reform in one breath, and then slammed teachers and the practice of tenure in the next breath saying, ”Basically the only thing you [teachers] have to do is show up for four years. Do that, and tenure is yours.” Not surprisingly, his educational legislation promoting teacher evaluation reform is currently being met with serious resistance by the Connecticut State Teacher’s Union. Politics is polarizing the profession.
    This negative attention is dangerous if schools are interested in attracting quality candidates to the teaching profession. In his opinion piece in the 5/6/12 NYTimes “Teaching Me About Teaching” Charles M. Blow sounded this alarm pointing out, ”A big part of the problem is that teachers have been so maligned in the national debate that it’s hard to attract our best and brightest to see it as a viable and rewarding career choice, even if they have a high aptitude and natural gift for it.” His editorial was accompanied by statistics of the top tier college graduates who will not choose teaching for economic and social reasons; only 37% of responders believed a career in teaching is considered successful.
    The irony is that for years teachers have not been effective advocates for their work. Teachers have demonstrated but not taught their students the rigors of teaching; the assumption is that the experience of being a student speaks for the entire profession. Certainly, all occupations have practitioners that can make work look easy to an uninformed public. Any product- a building, a meal, a vaccine, a championship trophy -cannot fully inform the public of the individual or collaborative preparation to make that product a reality. In addition, all work requires some level of training. Teachers study about their craft first at college and later implement these lessons in classrooms. However, the classroom is crucible, a brutal training ground that disputes the notion that “anyone can teach” as almost half the nation’s new teachers vote for the profession with their feet, leaving within the first five years.

    Being a student is only 1/2 of the educational relationship; teachers need to teach the significance of their role

    For decades, K-12 teachers have collectively prepared students for careers in the sciences, in mathematics, in the arts, in the humanities, and in the industrial arts. Yet, in preparing students for careers beyond the classroom, there has been no direct instruction on the methodology on the craft of instruction for student learning. Consider how little students today understand about how much time and cognitive effort a teacher has to expend for each lesson plan. Day after day, period after period, students participate in an academic enterprise without acknowledging the multiple components that teachers have included in its construction: IEPs, multiple/emotional intelligence strategies, Bloom’s levels of understanding, technology, curriculum content, available resources and facility limitations to name a few.
    Teaching is challenging work, and in their commitment to provide the nation with all manner of numeracy and literacy skills, teachers have failed to express and assess student understanding of teaching. Students at all grade levels in public or private schools today have little understanding of the increasing demands of the teaching profession which now include incorporating Common Core State Standards, integrating technology for 21st Century Skills, and increasing scrutiny in newly designed evaluations. Ultimately, teachers have failed to communicate the significance of their contributions to a productive society that will result in recruiting the best and the brightest to the profession.
    The public’s understanding of education often comes as a “recipient in the desk “point of view, not from the perspective of the teacher charged with engaging and educating every student. Unless the public is persuaded that teachers are critical for our democratic society, the profession will continue to suffer economically and socially. After basking in the attention from stories of the positive influence they have had on on the lives of individual students during Teacher Appreciation Week, teachers need to integrate one more lesson to their repertoire. How ironic that teachers must teach the significance of teaching.

  2. The RESPECT startegy should lift every child and teacher, together, at once. To that end two critical remarks:

    A base-line of equal time, high-quality literacy instruction(al) opportunity for every child every day is the goal , not over-attending one group while neglecting another by little or no face-to-face instruction time, as well skipping the opportunity for kids to learn together with independent experiential learning materials (Froebel & Montessori). Notice the social engagement next to the engaged learning on all levels that these critical points emphasize, including that kids automate skills together given independent learning materials instead of alone behind the computer?

    “Go learn behind the computer, kid!” cannot replace experiential learning and face-to-face engaged instruction from a teacher every day, who even if not ‘high-quality’ level now, should receive high-quality instructions to follow, so they will be soon.

    Go! GO! GO USA!!!!!!!!!!

  3. At a point in time when many other educated people with college degrees are underemployed or unemployed, the compensation proposal is one I’m unwilling to support for all but an incredibly great teacher. Certainly, there should be no tenure and no defined pension plan at such high level salaries. There are large numbers of similarly situated individuals in the private sector who don’t earn the kind of salaries set forth in this document, and many older individuals in the private work force get terminated from their employment as they age and never recover the level of compensation they once earned. Many of these individuals don’t have a pension plan to support them in old age.

    Additionally, one important piece is missing from this document and that is the voice of the customer. There are many good things happening in many schools today; however, there is much room for improvement. Certainly, the voice of parents who send their children to school deserves consideration. The customer has influence in other industries. The same should happen in education. Schools might get some good feedback if they surveyed their customers and took action on what they learned.

    • I’m not sure I understand: because the private sector is currently exploitive, ungrateful, and neglectful of employees we should follow that example when it comes to teachers?

      The current approach taken by the private sector does not seem like a viable, sustainable model either morally or practically. Perhaps it’s the mentality of scarcity that’s causing us to shortchange those who make concrete contributions to the economy and society, and thereby creating the distortions and problems that lead to low pay and exploitation in the first place. There is plenty of money and lots of profit; it’s just not shared with those who do the work. Rather than accepting the downward spiral of exploitation and greed that only serves the interests of the few, we should be improving the society in which we all live together.

      • Private sector’s exploited, neglected employees are on the hook to pay Teachers’s salaries. So i empathize with MG.

  4. As a parent in a small, failing school district who attends Board of Ed budget meetings that annually include million dollar academic cuts you lost me at the words “fair compensation”. If you want respect, earn it! If you want to make a change in education look to countries that succeed. For the good of the children we all need to let go of our American pride and realize that others do it better. I have had high school exchange students living with me for the last five years and we are embarrassed by how much more they know and how “dumbed down” American education is and teachers are grossly inadequate and often inappropriate. The things they say to their students and the “buddy” attitude they have assures they will never have professional respect. Parents are told we are not our kids’ friends; teachers should be told they are not “hip”.

  5. This document is a healthy one.
    This writing has many ideas involved and cost factors that might make it difficult to dream as possible. Given that these difficulties might be set aside for the moment, it is a healthier vision than has been written for some time. It includes many of the newer applications and makes room for future progress.
    As an educator I’m interested in the progressiveness of education and finding workable solutions that include healthy best practices and bring those into our shared educational awareness and teaching. A vision statement that addresses those and includes an, out of our normal boxes of teacher thinking, has our united efforts in mind. Thanks for taking the time to envision the future of education.

  6. I am a veteran teacher who resides within the Chicagoland area. I am very excited about the RESPECT project, after having read through the vision statement.

    I too, am quite interested in being a part of this innovative team of educators. May I be allowed to get on board with the ‘chosen teachers’?

    I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education; I also have a Master of Education degree in Interdisciplinary Studies in Education, as well as a Master of Art’s degree in Educational Administration. I’m currently in pursuit of my Doctoral degree in Educational Leadership. I currently possess Illinois state certificates: Types 3, 4 and 75.

    I would love very much to become a part of this team. The RESPECT vision statement is something that definitely needs to come to fruition in the very near future. I’d like to assist in making that happen.


  7. I can not WAIT to implement the vision. EXCELLENT work! Collectively, we are poised to proceed. Is there any chance one or more of the Ambassadors could join us in San Diego, on June 8 and 9 for a special reception and symposium with National Board Certified Teachers and administrators from CA, to roll this out. I have the RESPECT project on our agendas in alignment with several initatives; CETT, CCSSO- SCEE/ Learning Forward, NCATE/CAEP, AACTE, Lumina and TPAs).
    If interested and possible, contact me for the details and preview agendas at

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