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U.S. Follows Global Trend to RESPECT Teachers

Duncan announces a new competitive grant to show teachers a little respect.
Arne Duncan, RESPECT, teachers
In February, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan proposed a new competitive grant program, dubbed RESPECT, to revamp the entire teaching profession.

In 2002, Andrew Moore, the science and society program manager at the European Molecular Biology Organization in Germany, wrote a report following the first PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) assessment, “Learning from PISA.” Moore writes that to inspire students to remain competitive, our teachers in turn must also be trained with rigor and widely respected, as is the case in many countries around the globe, many of which outperform the U.S.

“We must inspire the inspirers, select the best and look after them well,” wrote Moore in his essay. One decade later, Moore’s thoughts are reverberating in Washington as U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced a new plan to show teachers a little respect. The program, Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching (RESPECT), was, true to the Obama Administration’s form, introduced as a competitive grant that will award money to states with winning proposals that include reforming teacher colleges and making them more selective, reforming compensation and merit pay performance, creating new career ladders for teachers to develop leadership skills, reform tenure, improve professional development, and build a teacher evaluation system based on multiple measures. The proposal, which is part of the administration’s proposed 2013 budget, is currently slated for $5 billion.

“Our larger goal is to make teaching not only America’s most important profession—[but also] America’s most respected profession,” said Duncan to teachers at a town hall event on Feb. 14. According to Moore, Finland and South Korea are two countries that revere the teaching profession and train them to be the best of the best. Both Finland and South Korea greatly outperformed the United States in the latest PISA results from 2009. The two countries, along with Shanghai-China, Hong Kong-China and Singapore, ranked in the top five.

The administration’s plan coincides with a plan put forth by the National Education Association last December, called NEA’s Three-Point Plan for Education Reform. The plan, like RESPECT, calls for more rigorous standards for entry into the profession, as well as for developing systems that help ensure that those who are in the classroom maintain a high standard of practice.

"It’s encouraging to me that educators and the Administration are moving in the same direction with the same range of goals for transforming our schools,” said NEA Executive Director Dennis Van Roekel in a press released on Feb. 15. “NEA cannot do this alone and we applaud the Administration. Recruiting talented candidates and providing substantive, high-quality preparation is essential in ensuring quality schools.”