In a number of documents released today, the U.S. Department of Education launched the latest push for its RESPECT proposal, a grant program to promote a comprehensive vision for the teaching profession.
The documents are part fleshing-out of the program—and part subtle acknowledgement that the $5 billion proposal isn’t likely to get an infusion of cash anytime soon.
For the the immediate future, the Education Department will integrate the principles of RESPECT into some of its competitive teacher-quality grant programs. (Remember, the department gets to set the priorities for these competitions.) The grants could include, potentially, the Teacher Incentive Fund, the SEED grants (a small set-aside from the $2.5 billion Title II state teacher-quality grants), the School Improvement Grants, and the district-level Race to the Top competition.
The RESPECT program has seven components: Creating a culture of shared responsibility, recruiting top talent, using evaluations to promote effective teaching, using professional development to support continuous growth, establishing a “career continuum” to generate advanced leadership roles and compensation for superb teachers, creating “conditions for success,” such as restructuring the school day to support teacher collaboration, and partnering with communities.
The grant, which would help states and districts to take action in those areas, was first proposed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan in February 2012, but its roots go back deeper. Beginning in summer 2011, the department arranged roundtable discussions with educators across the country to learn what they had to say about moving the teaching profession forward. It’s hosted some 360 roundtables with 5,700 educators in all.
Last year, the agency worked with a whole host of Washington-based groups, from the National Education Association on down, to agree to a statement on what a transformation of the profession should look like. From these efforts, the new blueprint unveiled today was developed.
“This vision came out of in response to what we were hearing of teachers. We knew the demands [on teachers] have grown as standards have risen and needs have multiplied, and we know the profession has not evolved as quickly,” said Tyra Mariani, the deputy chief of staff to Duncan. “These changes in their profession should be shaped with them.”
The administration has pitched RESPECT as as a one-time, mandatory-spending program. Given that Congress seems unable to agree on much of anything these days, though, the chances of getting some cash seem very unlikely. So, in addition to taking stock of its own grant programs, the department will also encourage districts to begin this work on their own.
ED’s new products include a “self inventory” that districts can use to take stock of areas of weakness in their own teacher policies, and use that to begin discussions with local groups. The inventory and all the new materials can be found at a special page on the department’s website.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.