America should radically transform the way that teachers are recruited, assigned, evaluated and compensated in order to recognize and reward its great veteran teachers, attract top students into the field, and make America more competitive, said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
In a speech to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, Duncan urged teachers to rebuild their profession to give teachers more autonomy in exchange for performance-based accountability. Duncan also called for higher salaries to make teaching more competitive with other professions like medicine, law and engineering.
"I'm here today to challenge us all to work together towards one profound goal: to make teaching one of our nation's most venerated professions," Duncan said.
A critic of teacher preparation programs, teacher evaluation systems and a school year based on the agrarian calendar, Duncan said, "The entire model no longer works: a broken pipeline, a nine-month school year, a factory approach to staffing, compensation and benefits, a school design from the last century, and a management structure that is simply not up to the challenge."
Duncan added, "The incentives today are all wrong. Too many schools compensate teachers without respect to their impact on student learning. This is a blue collar model left over from the industrial era, based on seniority and credentials. It is not how professionals are compensated in this age of innovation," he said.
Duncan, who dramatically boosted the number of National Board Certified teachers in Chicago during his seven years as CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, urged the NBC teachers in attendance to lead a national conversation on remaking the teaching profession.
"Teachers must own this and drive this. Change can only come from the men and women who do the hard work every day in our classrooms," Duncan said.
Duncan suggested that starting salaries of around $60,000 and top salaries approaching $150,000 would help change the economics and makeup of the profession but acknowledged the difficulty of finding more money when governments at every level are wrestling with debt and deficits.
Duncan added, however, "We can't mortgage our future by under-investing in education."