Opinion: Teachers Deserve More than Apples, Gold Stars

Marion Herbert's picture
Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The White House could use a little help from Aretha Franklin to boost its new education initiative. The $5 billion plan aims to elevate the status of America’s teachers, and is dubbed RESPECT — although inspiring that particular sentiment may be wishful thinking.

The name is an acronym for Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

The goal, according to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, is to make teaching “not only America’s most important profession — but also America’s most respected profession.” School districts and states are expected to compete for their part of the initiative’s funding, which is requested in the 2013 budget, to fund reforms to boost the teaching profession’s profile.

Good luck with that. Politicians, parents and students give a lot of lip service to the lofty ideal of teaching. Gold stars and shiny apples. But this nation is far from embracing the esteem in which other countries hold the profession and the value they put on student achievement.

Philosophically, the new initiative hits on all the right points: making admissions to college teaching programs more selective; tying pay to performance rather than just experience; evaluating teachers by a range of measures, not just test scores; and making teacher salaries more competitive with other professions.

Unfortunately, any such effort will meet strong headwinds.

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