With all due RESPECT

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On Wednesday, Education Secretary Duncan announced the $5 billion RESPECT Project, a competitive grant program aimed at nothing less than "rebuilding" the teaching profession.

Details about the project are sketchy and it seems unlikely that Congress will pass it. Still we thought we would make some concrete suggestions about what grant seekers should incorporate in their proposals to fit into the program's six "key elements," were an RFP ever to hit the street:

  1. Attracting top-tier talent into education and preparing them for success: Set the bar for entry into teacher preparation such that only the top half of the college-going population can get in. 
  2. Creating a professional career continuum with competitive compensation: Move teachers of proven effectiveness faster up the pay schedule. Unlike those of other professions, teachers' salaries generally max out only at the tail end of their careers. 
  3. Creating conditions for success: Lengthen the school day and give extra time to teachers to plan and collaborate.
  4. Evaluating and supporting the development and success of teachers and leaders:  Use evaluations to inform teacher practice. Our 2011 State Teacher Policy Yearbook found that most states do not require teachers to receive direct feedback from their evaluations, and that only 12 states require that evaluation results impact professional development.
  5. Getting the best educators to the students who need them most: Build a high quality student-teaching pipeline into schools in need. The Rodel Exemplary Teacher Initiative places student teachers with effective mentor teachers in high-poverty, high-performing schools. Those who stay to teach in high-poverty schools for three years receive a $10,000 savings bond.
  6. Sustaining a new and improved system: Take the lessons from Florida, Tennessee, and Louisiana and create a commission to help roll out a successful data management model throughout the country.

While these proposals may not sound quite as grand as what Secretary Duncan is looking for, if they were implemented across the country, they would go a long way toward elevating the profession.

—Graham Drake