George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Help the Teacher Salary Project Boost Our Profession

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Editor's note: The following call to action was written by Nínive Clements Calegari, who was featured in Edutopia's 2007 Daring Dozen

I'll be happy when excellent teachers don't have to work second jobs to pay their bills. It might seem strange to keep harping on this topic when 20 million people in our country don't have work, but I'll tell you why I can't let up. Plus, you can help.

The Teacher Salary Project is working to honor effective teachers, and we'd love to hear your story. Please read on to learn how you can be a part of this movement.

Here's why this matters so much:

We have to focus on our most valuable asset and resource: the kids sitting in every classroom all over our country. And now we know, unequivocally, that the most important factor for their school success is the quality of the teacher at the helm.

So, why not put the very best person there and keep them there? Let's pay teachers well so they can continue doing the work they love and afford to not take a second job.

Would you consider joining our effort?

People sometimes tell me that teachers aren't motivated by money (and I guess the thinking, therefore, is that they don't need it). But I would like to believe that there are many doctors out there who aren't motivated by money, but are fascinated by the science and pushed to do their best because of their patients. Should we underpay them?

Would we worry if 46 percent of doctors left within their first five years, as teachers do? The work is strenuous and draining and demanding, and yet, they stay. And they can buy a home in the neighborhood they want, and they don't have to work at a bar or a bookstore on the weekends to fund their passion for medicine and their patients' well being.

We expect so, so much from our teachers. And after years of research, we know for sure the best ones really make a magnificent difference in young peoples' lives. The Teacher Salary Project is hoping to shine a light on effective teachers to make sure that all Americans realize that we are all stakeholders in our schools.

Like Arne Duncan says, either for social justice reasons or as an economic imperative, we have to do better. Not pushing on this means that we perpetuate poverty and we all lose out. Dramatically.

The ultimate vision of The Teacher Salary Project is to propel teaching into the financially attractive, prestigious and competitive profession it needs to be. We dream of a nation where every child -- not just students in wealthy and middle class schools -- will have stellar teachers who not only inspire and challenge students to live up to their potential, but grow in their profession to shape whole communities.

The project will build the necessary political will around this issue and provide the concrete tools to reshape our educational system dramatically -- one district at a time.

Blending multi-media documentary storytelling with video submissions from the public, this project is a collective story by and about those who have the greatest impact on student success -- our nation's teachers. The film will encourage discussion and inspire communities to change. After its debut, our online archive will continue to serve as an evolving source of information, news, and links to districts at the forefront of reform.

Join us to change American culture so that students receive the education they deserve.

Send us a letter or a video of 1-3 minutes telling your own story -- why you teach, your setbacks, your triumphs, your hopes, your frustrations, or a certain memory that sticks in your mind. E-mail questions or written submissions to, and learn more at our Web site.

We'll weave your stories into our film and our Web site. Together we would like to represent the very best of the teaching profession to inspire our audiences to action.

-- Nínive Clements Calegari

Nínive Clements Calegari is co-founder of the 826 National writing centers, and co-author of Teachers Have it Easy: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America's Teachers.

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Dr. Mike Todd's picture
Dr. Mike Todd
Chief Learning Officer

Like other service industries (police or fire) who get much of their money from local revenue (FL where many districts have more local funding vs. state funding), increase in pay is unlikely. While I agree with performance pay and limiting teacher union involvement, we must have the ability to get rid of teachers not making the grade no matter tenure.

Darlene Pope's picture
Darlene Pope
8th Grade Social Studies teacher & Dept. Chair, AVID Coordinator

I noticed that you included a clip of the founder of the TEP school in NYC in your video archive on the website. I have been following this school from its beginning and am eager to see it succeed. We need to be aware that the construct of the school day and year at this site is dramatically different not only in teacher time allocation, but in teacher expectations. Personally I find such a change invigorating, but many in our profession would balk at the extended professional development and longer at site hours this model includes. I believe there is not tenure at this site as well. Teaching as it is today and the prospect of teachers being held as an esteemed profession are two realities that seem hard to reconcile. Think of any school site. Think of who the movers and shakers are at that site. Is it more than 20% of the staff? How many staff members log in to a site such as this or read a professional journal once a month...or engage in reflective analysis on a weekly basis? How many of us are ready to be judged by the achievement of our students? Is the example of Jamie in another video clip the norm? If indeed we are to consider ourselves, as another teacher commented, more important than the President should tenure even be an option? Mustn't performance count? How should that performance be measured?

I don't know that I have all or any of the answers to these questions. Put the exploration of possible answers is an intriguing line of thought and fuels a very interesting web site.

Caren's picture

As a student pursuing a degree in Elementary Education, this topic is of interest to me personally. Is there any doubt that teachers are grossly underpaid? Absolutely not. However, the sad reality is that I do not see this changing in the near future. Your efforts are commendable and this project is inspiring.

Brad B's picture

Darlene made an interesting point when she stated, "How many staff members log in to a site such as this or read a professional journal once a month...or engage in reflective analysis on a weekly basis?" I agree with her point that educators must continuously seek out opportunities for professional development either through their school system or independently on their own. Being a reflective practitioner who is willing to improve instructional practices leads to greater results and being viewed more favorably as a true professional by the community. Although reading up on professional journals may have been time consuming in the past, the recent advancements in Web 2.0 technologies make the process of creating a personal learning network relatively simple to establish. By staying informed, willing to modify practices, and providing quality instruction educators will slowly begin to be viewed as true professionals.

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