We're honored to be the first in a series of Guest Blog posts for Landed Inc! Low teacher pay means that many teachers are priced out of homes in the neighborhoods where they teach. Landed is helping alleviate this problem by assisting teachers with down payments on homes. Their work is an essential part of the process of elevating the teacher profession and we are proud to be working with them. Follow the link to read our post, and look out for a guest blog here from Landed, coming soon!
We’re thrilled that ATTN: has chosen to use our footage once again to highlight the hard work and determination of teachers in this country. Students are out for summer break, but many teachers do not enjoy the same luxury -- as soon as the school year ends, they begin working summer jobs that will hold them over until the next begins. Teachers work long hours during the school year, many unpaid, and deserve to enjoy their summers off in the same way that their students do. Thanks to ATTN: for bringing attention to this issue and making it known that our teachers deserve better!
Our new film, produced for the Maine Education Association, follows Nate Petersen, a high school Social Studies teacher in Hermon, Maine. Nate is a full time teacher, but his teacher salary alone is not enough to make ends meet. He works some afternoons and weekends as a bartender to supplement his income.
As Nate tells us in the film, teaching is much more than just hours spent teaching in the classroom. To create lesson plans that are inspiring and engaging for students, teachers like Nate spend many hours outside the school day putting together these plans.
Stories like Nate's are extremely common across Maine, where average salary, at just $33,189, is about $7,000 below the average for New England. That makes Maine's starting teacher salary the lowest in New England and 41st in the nation.
Nate is 30 years old and soon wants to start a family, but knows that between his two jobs, and struggling to pay back student loans, that is just not a possibility. We will continue to work towards a society where teachers like Nate can afford to start a family while staying in the profession they love.
We want to offer a special thanks to the Maine Education Association and Mission Pictures for your collaboration.
-The Teacher Salary Project Team
Today, May 19, is National Endangered Species Day. We want to honor this day by featuring an incredible lesson put together by a first grade teacher, Ms. Netkin, at Lawton School in San Francisco. To learn about endangered species, these first graders made costumes, gave reports, and decorated the wheelchair ramp with a pollination mural.
This is just one of millions of examples of teachers who go above and beyond expectations to engage their students and help them learn. Teachers are essential to addressing many important issues, like that of endangered species. They expose students to these issues and engage them in critical-thinking and dialogue, guiding students as they develop problem-solving skills.
Ms. Netkin's lesson serves as a reminder of the incredible passion and effort teachers are putting into lesson plans every day. If we want teachers who are engaged with critical issues like these, we need to offer professional wages that reflect their hard work, and give them the ability to read up on these issues and develop engaging lesson plans, rather than spending spare time working second jobs to make ends meet.
-Emma Liss, Social Media Specialist
In California, we have been hard at work supporting the “Invest In Teachers Act,” SB 807, which offers a tax incentive to veteran teachers who stay in the classroom. After initial feedback, the authors continue to revise the bill and it will go before the California Senate Finance and Governance Committee in late April. We’ll be there. Will you join us in Sacramento? If your schedule doesn’t allow you to travel, then please sign here to support to the teachers in California.
We hope you agree that teachers should be the people we listen to on this issue. One of our board members, Laney Baciocco, who teaches in San Francisco, wrote to us, reflecting on what the passage of SB 807 would mean for her:
"My job barely covers basic living expenses, let alone student loans, so I bartend on weekends, teach after school, and run a summer school program. With the tax break proposed by SB 807, I could take off one Saturday a month and pretend I have a normal job for that weekend. Just one day. Per month.
I know, everyone works hard, and, of course, people should be appreciated and applauded for the work they do. Yet, is your doctor bartending on the weekend to make ends meet? Is your mechanic also driving for Uber or Lyft? Does your dentist need to complete dentistry tutoring after a full day’s work? We all know the answer is probably no.
Generally speaking, doctors and dentists do not need to take side jobs to make ends meet because they are compensated at a professional rate. What will it take for teachers to be recognized in the same way? I was San Francisco’s Teacher of the Year last year, I am a candidate for National Board certification, and I work constantly to improve my craft as a teacher. I am a professional, too, but I’m not paid like one.
It’s true that we chose our professions, fully aware of what our salaries would be. But we chose them also because we care about the work we do and see the social value in it. We educate your kids whether you support us or not, and we’re proud to do it. So, for a minute, ask yourself this question: How many teachers have to leave the profession before we pay them what our students are worth?"
-Laney Baciocco, San Francisco Teacher of the Year 2016
Recently, The Teacher Salary Project was invited to Tacoma to participate in the Teach to Lead Summit. We brought along the amazing Devin Triplett, a high school teacher from Sacramento, along as part of the team. Here are his thoughts on his experience at Teach to Lead.
The author Elizabeth Green describes teaching as “the science of all sciences, the art of all arts.” For, as she states, “Teachers not only [have] to think; they [have] to think about other people’s thinking. It is the highest form of knowing.”
In today’s world, it is not enough to have a teacher who is an expert in their field of study. An excellent teacher is a person who must be knowledgeable in their content, yet also acutely aware of how we as humans learn, develop, overcome obstacles, battle doubt, and progress toward understanding the broader implications our choices have in this world. The lessons they teach are not focused on content alone. A great teacher leads students in curiosity, zeal, resilience, resourcefulness, and compassion. Finally, a great teacher doesn’t just act as a leader for students; they are leaders for other teachers as well.
Recently, I had the tremendous experience of participating in the Teach to Lead Summit in Tacoma, WA. Organized by the U.S. Department of Education, Teach to Lead is focused on bringing together groups of teacher leaders from across the nation in developing and strengthening ideas on how to reinforce teacher voice and leadership within our schools. With Founder and President of The Teacher Salary Project Nínive Calegari, UESF President Lita Blanc, 826 Evaluations Director Lauren Hall, James Lick Middle School teacher Laney Corda, as well as critical friends Annie Tronco and Elizabeth Evans, our team arrived in Tacoma excited to work with so many incredible educators, advisors, and leaders.
One moment that stood out over the course of the weekend came during a talk delivered by Washington Teacher of the Year Nathan Gibbs-Bowling. He reminded us all that if we don’t advocate for ourselves, someone is going to do it for us; but they may not have our best intentions in mind.
I couldn’t shake this thought that teachers--highly-educated and skilled, well-spoken and insightful teachers--would be the ones in need of being reminded to advocate for themselves.
Yet, it’s true. The education system is facing a crisis in which skilled educators are leaving the profession. Furthermore, fewer college graduates are considering teaching as a career. Of those that do complete the education necessary and decide to enter the field, 46% will leave within their first five years. Teacher shortages are occurring across the nation at a time when over half of the U.S. teaching force will be eligible for retirement within the next ten years.
I can say that teaching is the most difficult, demanding, complicated, yet also the most rewarding job I have ever had. The teachers I have worked with are some of the most intelligent, insightful, and skilled individuals I have ever met. Yet, it is hard to believe that close to half of all who complete the education necessary to be a teacher leave because the job is too difficult. We teachers know that it’s not going to be easy going in, and that’s part of why this profession is so rewarding. I believe that teachers are increasingly feeling that their work is not being adequately supported, and that their efforts are unsustainable given the compensation.
While salaries are not the only cause for falling teacher recruitment and retention rates, poor salaries are the primary cause cited by 61% of the teachers who leave the profession due to dissatisfaction. Teachers work an average of 10 hours a day and 52 hours a week. However, the average teacher salary is 14% less than other professions that require similar levels of education. As a result, it is not uncommon to see one’s local teacher holding part-time employment outside of teaching. If this teacher is also a parent, the financial sacrifice of being a teacher often becomes unsustainable. A great teacher can impart a year and half’s worth of learning to a student in one year, and great teaching over a period of time can help students overcome the disadvantages of poverty. However, these highly educated and skilled individuals need to know that we as a society value their work. So, how much is it worth to us to ensure that our schools have and hold on to the best teachers for our students?
I am in my fifth year as a high school English teacher. As I think of the teachers who have guided me towards becoming the teacher I am today, I also think of the 46% of new teachers leaving the profession before ever having the opportunity to hit their stride as educators. I can’t help but think how many of those might have gone on to become great teachers themselves, leaders for students and faculty alike. I also wonder how many more now in the field might leave the profession without the support and guidance of a skilled teacher leader.
I am grateful to Nathan, Teach to Lead, the Teacher Salary Project, as well as others who have chosen to advocate for our nation’s teachers. Our students deserve the best teachers we have to offer, and the recruitment and retention of great teachers needs to be prioritized within the budgets of schools and districts everywhere. If 3.2 million teachers across the country were to advocate that we pay teachers what we believe our students are worth, who could disagree?
Devin began his teaching career as an English instructor in Querétaro, México. Prior to joining The Teacher Salary Project team in 2009, Devin interned with both 826 Valencia and 826 National. He currently lives in Sacramento, CA where he serves as the Director of Curriculum and English Department Chair at Cristo Rey High School, Sacramento. He graduated from California State University, Chico with degrees in Music and Religious Studies.
This week, The Teacher Salary Project released a brand new short film in their series on the state of teaching in the United States. “Laney’s Story” bit.ly/LaneyStory profiles a public middle school teacher who works two after-school jobs and spends her nights bartending just so she can afford to stay in the classroom. Laney fears she won’t make enough to pay her bills—and fears even more that she can’t give 100 percent to her students because she is so over-worked and exhausted.
“At some point you have to take care of yourself, you have to take care of your own family,” Laney tells us in the film, “and on what I’m making, we wouldn’t make it.”
Laney’s story is not uncommon. According to a recent study by Center for American Progress, teachers in the United States have the lowest starting salary among comparable professionals. Another study by McKinsey notes teachers’ salaries have essentially stagnated for 40 years. In 30 out of 50 states, pay has gone down. Meanwhile, California faces a teacher shortage and has seen a 55 percent decrease in enrollment in teacher credentialing programs (compared to a 30 percent decrease across the nation). In its current state, the teaching profession is failing to attract, retain and value qualified teachers to do this critical work.
The film is the second in a series of new shorts from The Teacher Salary Project—a nonpartisan organization founded in 2010 by educator Nínive Calegari, Academy Award-winning filmmaker, Vanessa Roth, and best-selling author Dave Eggers. In 2011, The Teacher Salary Project produced the documentary, “American Teacher.” Now in its fifth year, the organization continues to raise awareness around the impact of our national policy of underpaying and undervaluing educators. The Teacher Salary Project remains committed to working with everyone in the country to ensure teaching becomes the prestigious, desirable, financially viable, and professionally exciting job we know it needs to be.
Recently, Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan introduced a plan to reduce prison spending and use the savings to spend directly on raising teachers’ salaries. By reducing prison spending by 21 percent across the country, we could double teachers’ salaries in low income schools. The impact of this proposal is clear: If teachers like Laney were appropriately compensated they would no longer need to work two and three jobs outside of the classroom. Instead of struggling to pay rent, they would be able to fully devote themselves to our nation’s children.
“It makes me really upset to think I’m not giving them my best,” Laney says in the film. “I have so many other things that are going on. And I feel like what I give them now is amazing, because I won’t give them any less—but it can’t possibly be my best.” As the U.S. Department of Education continues to approve State Plans to Ensure Equitable Access to Excellent Educators (Equity Plans), the question of how to recruit and retain enough strong teachers for all students remains a high priority and this new film hopes to broaden the dialogue about the importance of pay in doing so.
The Teacher Salary Project plans to move forward with more films and initiatives to amplify and support teachers voices. The goal is simple: A nation where we pay our teachers what we think our students are worth.
view the film
Help us continue to spread the word about Kory's short film by sharing the images or quotes below with your friends!
"I see kids that are in the gap and I feel they would be more successful if they sat in a room, in a school, in a city, in a state, in a country—that really valued what was happening in the classroom" —Kory O'Rourke, High School Teacher via The Teacher Salary Project. bit.ly/KoryStory
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"We are looking at students and telling them your learning matters, your education matters, but the people we entrust to give that to you, we're not going to value." –Kory O'Rourke, High School Teacher via The Teacher Salary Project. bit.ly/KoryStory
Take a look at our map of Bay Area teachers' salaries to see how teachers are faring around the bay—and see how your city stacks up.
Meet Kory O’Rourke: a San Francisco resident, mom, Lyft driver, and a full time teacher. Kory started driving Lyft last year as a way to provide for her children. The salary she's making as a teacher is not enough to get by and not enough for a professional.
Despite the hurdles in front of them, dedicated teachers do heroic work to bring a love of learning to their students. We are in awe of Kory, and all teachers like her, and we continue to be mad as hell that good teachers need second jobs.
And these issues are not just in San Francisco. Teachers all over the country take on second jobs—driving for Lyft, bartending, housekeeping, working in a warehouse overnight—just to make enough money to stay in the classroom. No wonder we're seeing teacher shortages.
We hope Kory reminds you of the teachers who made you who you are today and we hope you join us in our indignation.
Kory's film is kicking off our short film series about America's teachers and their importance to our shared peace and prosperity. We're debuting it today, her first day back at school. Please take a moment to watch Kory's film and share her story with your community.
Our guest of honor at this year's Summit was the inspiring, Brad Jupp, Mr. Jupp currently serves as a senior program advisor on teacher initiatives to Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. Mr. Jupp has fifteen years of teaching experience under his belt—and was instrumental in turning Denver Public Schools into the first major school district in the U.S. to pay teachers based on students' performance.
We pressed Mr Jupp on his work with the Denver schools, on national educational priorities, questions of pay and on elevating the perception of teachers in America. Mr. Jupp also participated in the day's strategy and brainstorming sessions, offering his invaluable experience to a whole host of activities.
We are so grateful for Mr. Jupp's participation and are excited to implement his ideas in our upcoming projects. We want to thank Mr. Jupp for making the trek to give our meeting real gravitas. Thank you!
What happens when you fill a conference room with education policy experts, teacher trainers, designers, film makers, legal experts, incredible teachers, and one senior advisor to Arne Duncan? And you give them all a bunch of coffee? A few weeks ago, we decided to find out.
This year, TSP gathered all these amazing people together for our first-ever Summit. Experts came from all over the country for a day of intense brainstorming, strategizing, planning, and a literally too many "a-ha moments" to count.
The entire group of folks (including Teachers of the Year, educators, a principal, political workers—even two attorneys and some rock stars) focused on ways to stay committed to the four key areas of the Teacher Salary Project: storytelling, advocacy, research and social justice while digging into projects that are measurable and attainable (and exciting!).
Stay tuned—this Summit generated a ton of great ideas and killer strategies—and we're excited to share them with you in the coming months.*
A huge thanks goes to all the participants, and especially Jim Wagstaffe for coming up with this idea and for making it a reality!
*Spoiler alert: we have two films coming out very, very soon,and we think they will knock your socks off!
from our newsletter:
Can you believe it? Summer has finally come to an end. While students are gearing up to return to schools all over the country, many districts can't find enough qualified applicants to fill teacher positions.
We are really feeling this out in California. According to The New York Times, California districts "have to fill 21,500 slots... while the state is issuing fewer than 15,000 new teaching credentials.”
Frank Bruni, in his op-ed “Can We Interest You in Teaching?” has this to say:
”It’s a sad, alarming state of affairs, and it proves that for all our lip service about improving the education of America’s children, we’ve failed to make teaching the draw that it should be, the honor that it must be.”
Here at The Teacher Salary Project, we're working hard to do something to change what it means to be a teacher in America. We advocate for the notion of paying teachers professionally, treating them professionally and changing the value our society places on this role. So, instead of scrambling to find any warm body to fill vacant teacher positions—we will be able to draw in the wonderful folks (of all races and genders!) that America's students deserve.
Last November, our Executive Director, Nínive Calegari spoke on the importance of great teachers at TEDx.
by Nínive Calegari, Producer of American Teacher
from the American Teacher screening kit
Even though I’ve watched our film countless times, unexpected moments still make me cry. This summer, during a screening at a teachers’ conference, I got teary watching a former English teacher named Gretchen Weber describe moving her two thousand novels from basement to basement in the hopes that she might still someday go back into the classroom. I couldn’t help but think of the boxes of original lesson plans and primary document materials in my own basement—like Gretchen, I keep them just in case I ever go back. Teaching wasn’t ever just a job for me; it was a way of life, and it shaped the way I still think about the magnificence and fragility of our democracy, an honest day’s work, creating community, and being responsible for other people.
After receiving my master’s in Education and my teaching credentials, I taught in three different settings: a large urban public school, a large suburban public school, and a tiny public charter school, San Francisco’s first. There were huge differences in these settings in terms of resources: I was laid off from my first job due to a budget cut combined with our union’s “last in, first out” requirement; the second school was in a wealthy suburb with plenty of resources and meaningful professional training; and the charter school didn’t even have a building until a few weeks before the start of the year.
What the three schools had in common, however, were superb faculties. I marveled at the teachers at those three schools: How David Sondheim knew the souls of every kid in the halls of Drake High. The way Jonathan Dearman brought an entire music department to our under-supplied charter school. The eye-popping science experiments that Sarah Kerley designed on a limited budget and with scrappy materials. I could go on and on.
I witnessed firsthand how these creative, warm, hilarious, and intelligent teachers made sincere connections with students and provided inspiring lessons day after day, but I knew the outside world didn’t see what I saw, and I often felt and heard a very different impression about our profession. In 2003 I was thrilled to team up with Daniel Moulthrop and Dave Eggers to attempt to address this lack of awareness, and we wrote a book collecting vivid depictions of teachers’ lives. We interviewed hundreds of teachers about the complexities of their work, their passions for their profession, their frustrations with public conceptions of their value, and their financial struggles to make it all possible.
We talked with people who said they would have loved to go into teaching, but didn’t want to be undervalued professionally or scraping by financially. We also examined schools that had raised their teachers’ salaries and saw good results: increased applications for openings, increased teacher retention, increased graduation rates, and, yes, increased test scores. The book was well received, and yet, I wanted to speak to people beyond the educational community. American Teacher is our attempt to bring these stories to a wider audience.
At the moment, we have a rare opportunity to fundamentally shape the future of the teaching profession. Over half of our nation’s teachers will be eligible to retire in the next ten years, and we can take advantage of this shift in personnel to spark a cultural shift as well. We have to make teaching a desirable profession, with fair pay, opportunities for professional growth, and acceptable conditions. I want to live in a country where collegestudents stay up at night wondering if they will be successful enough to become a teacher, the same way they worry about getting into medical school.
Many people tell me that teachers aren’t motivated by money, and there’s a lot of truth to that; for many teachers, the job itself is the real reward. But that view overlooks the many long-term consequences of undervaluing a profession. Many college students want to teach but can’t see a financial and professional future in it. Of those who do take the leap, over half have to work second jobs outside the classroom. We can’t ask teachers to take a vow of poverty and then expect miraculous results. If we want a different future for our kids and grandkids, we need to give education reform the time, attention, and money that it demands and deserves.
As we take this film from city to city, I often think about all those boxes of lesson plans stashed in my basement. I’m still in touch with many of my former students, but I miss the challenges and excitement unique to being in charge of a classroom of young people. I know many of my old colleagues feel the same way. For all of them, and especially for all the recent graduates currently considering the profession, I hope this film helps build support for vital change. Our kids and our country deserve the most talented, dedicated teachers available who can stay and thrive in the profession—and those teachers deserve our respect and fair pay.
by Dave Eggers, Producer of American Teacher
from the American Teacher screening kit
My mom was a teacher, and a lot of my good friends from high school and college became teachers. One of my best friends was a teacher in San Francisco when we were both in our twenties and living in the city. She lived down the street from me, and we would see each other often, and she would talk about her job, her students, her school. She was easily the most passionate and accomplished and adult among all of us twenty-somethings. I was happy for her, and for the students who had her as a teacher.
But then, after about four years teaching, she had to quit. She couldn’t afford it. She had loans, she had expenses. She was living with a roommate in a small apartment, couldn’t afford her own place, couldn’t afford a car, couldn’t afford most of the things she needed. So she quit to sell educational software, and eventually went into real estate.
So that was a lesson to me. Great teachers, born teachers, were leaving the profession because of the salaries and conditions. And over the years, through our 826 National centers, I’ve met dozens of other young teachers who were inspiring, gifted, and who left the profession. In most cases, it wasn’t just about the money. But money drives a lot of co-factors, like prestige, autonomy, and respect.
So Nínive Calegari, Daniel Moulthrop and I put together the book Teachers Have It Easy: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America’s Teachers, allowing the teachers to tell their stories, what they love about their job and what makes their job unnecessarily difficult.
After the book was published, a documentary seemed like a natural extension of the story. We could reach new audiences and update the stories of some of the teachers profiled in the book.
The hope for the film now is to share the stories of actual teachers: what the job is really all about, how hard it is, and how many of the things we assume we know about the profession aren’t quite right. We’re in an unprecedented age of scrutiny for teachers, and much of the debate is shrill and misinformed. We’re hoping the movie presents a clear, sober picture of the lives of teachers, and can hint at a roadmap for improving conditions and retention.