Tracing the Path of RESPECT Conversations
Tracing the Path of RESPECT Conversations
Milestones of RESPECT
Seeds of a National Conversation
Educators have long recognized the need to elevate the teaching profession so that our schools are able to attract and retain the best educators. Groups like the Center for Teaching Quality and Teach Plus emerged out of a desire for educators to continue to develop their talents and leadership.
Beginning in the summer 2011, Teaching Ambassador Fellows at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) began connecting with teacher leadership organizations to hold a national conversation with teachers and leaders. Their goal was to engage educators in crafting a vision of what a transformed profession might look like.
- View Arne Duncan's call to teachers to redesign the profession.
- Follow the Fellows' path.
- Over a two-year period, the Fellows spoke with approximately 5,700 educators in more than 360 group conversations.
As conversations between educators and the Department took place, a number of national organizations began issuing reports about their own work to transform the profession. These reports revealed both a growing consensus for elevating teaching and leading and a unified vision for what a transformed profession might look like. [expand/collapse]
Early Discussions (summer and early fall 2011)
Initial conversations with teachers and leaders, led by ED's Teaching Ambassador Fellows, centered on developing a teacher-led vision for the profession. To focus the discussions, teachers read and reacted to a three-page framework called "A Teaching Profession for the 21st Century." Read [PDF, 64KB] this early prompt.
Expanded Discussions (late fall and early winter 2011)
In later conversations, educators examined ideas raised in by earlier groups. The prompt used to guide these conversations took the form of an extended outline of the vision that teachers had described in previous groups. After reviewing this prompt (that had grown to about six pages), teachers reacted thoughtfully to the proposed vision and talked about what it would take to create a profession like the one described. Read [PDF, 45KB] the discussion prompt.
A Shared Vision, a Seminal Agreement
In May 2012, eight national organizations came together at a Labor Management Collaboration (LMC) Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, to sign a ground-breaking Shared Vision: Transforming the Teaching Profession [PDF, 517KB]. These organizations represent a wide range of the stakeholder spectrum, including: teachers' unions (NEA and AFT), school boards (NSBA), school administrators (AASA), mediators and counselors (FMCS), state chiefs (CCSSO), the Council of Great City Schools (CGCS), and the U.S. Department of Education.
The shared vision for transforming teaching and leading reflects the work of eight different national organizations who agreed on these critical components. [expand/collapse]
- A Culture of Shared Responsibility and Leadership
- Top Talent, Prepared for Success
- Continuous Growth and Professional Development
- Effective Teachers and Principals
- A Professional Career Continuum with Competitive Compensation
- Conditions for Successful Teaching and Learning
- Engaged Communities
Describing and Refining the Vision (most of 2012)
Once teachers had contributed to the creation of a vision for the transformed profession, conversations in 2012 centered on refining the vision and getting it right. [expand/collapse]
Beginning in late 2011 through fall 2012, teachers were asked to read the growing vision prior to attending a conversation and to respond to it during 2-hour roundtable discussions. The document was also posted online for public comment. As these discussions and public comment took place, revisions were made in real time, so that the document was changing frequently. Read [PDF, 97KB] the document used in March 2012.
Along the way, many revisions were made based on the feedback of educators, and changes were tracked back to the groups who first made the suggestions. These changes were reviewed at ED regularly. Review [PDF, 174KB] one example of the document with tracked changes marked from May 2012.
Continuing and Expanding the National Conversations (late 2012 and 2013)
Since late 2012, the Teaching Ambassador Fellows have continued to talk with educators about the RESPECT work, but the conversations have shifted in several ways.
Expanding the Dialogue
The Fellows have worked intentionally to involve many more stakeholders in conversations that include not just teachers, but also administrators, students, teacher preparation professors, , parents, school board members, and even legislators. Traveling to multiple regions, the Fellows have sought to convene conversations that allow people at all levels of education to weigh in on the vision, to hear about how the transformation of the profession affects, and to discuss what they believe are the most important components.
Shifting the Conversation
Rather than asking about what a vision for a transformed profession might look like, the conversations have shifted to the relative importance of the critical components in given states and districts, to how the work is playing out in various schools, and what stakeholders at all levels can do to shape a transformed profession. Instead of using the Vision statement as text, the Teaching Fellows refer to the LMC's Shared Vision: Transforming the Teaching Profession [PDF, 517KB]. This universal document was signed by the eight organizations at the Labor Management Conference.
What's Next for RESPECT?
Growing RESPECT in schools and districts
In many schools and districts, educators already are working to transform teaching and leading. [expand/collapse]
Some states relying on multiple methods to evaluate teachers and leaders, for example, and many use meaningful evaluations to direct professional development. Teachers and principals across the country have been mapping out strategies together to share the responsibility for school leadership, while others have been thinking in bold, new ways about how to redesign their schools and classrooms. Districts are considering ways to create meaningful career ladders so that teachers don't have to leave the classroom to take on additional roles and responsibilities, and earn higher pay. Increasingly, schools are opening their doors and their classrooms to parents and community members so eliminate false barriers and ensure a culture of collaboration and continuous growth. Schools of education are building meaningful residency programs, and so on.
While educators can point to excellent schools and educators in many places, for our profession to be transformed meaningfully and sustainably, we must improve all parts of the teacher trajectory. It won't work for some places to be islands of excellence or for some districts to pay teachers well while others neglect teacher salaries.
The Educator's Role
No federal agency can cause or sustain the kind of revolutionary change that teachers have told us they want in their profession. Most of this work takes place on the ground level, in classrooms and schools across the country. [expand/collapse]
For education to be a well-respected profession, educators themselves will have to own this work, to insist on being treated like professionals and on treating one another this way. They will have to engage in shaping policies in their schools, districts and states that reflect their vision for education, and where they are not invited to the table, they will have to make a place for their voices.
The Federal Role
President Obama believes that while government cannot fuel a revolution, we can support the work of visionary educators working for change. [expand/collapse]
This is why he released A Blueprint for RESPECT [PDF, 4.5MB], a proposal to support the transformation of the profession at a number of levels. As part of his Blueprint, the President has asked Congress for funds to support a RESPECT competition that will allow states and districts to implement the vision holistically. The Blueprint also outlines ways Secretary Duncan and the U.S. Department of Education will work to align new and existing programs and policies toward efforts that help our country achieve the RESPECT vision. Finally, the Blueprint includes background information about the RESPECT initiative, including a listing of research the Department reviewed when developing recommendations.