About the Project

THE TEACHER SALARY PROJECT is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to raising awareness around the impact of our national policy of underpaying and under- valuing educators. We are committed to working with everyone in the country to ensure teaching becomes the prestigious, desirable, financially viable, and professionally exciting job we all know it needs to be.

The project encompasses a feature-length documentary film, an online resource, and a national outreach campaign that delves into the core of our schools as seen through the eyes and experiences of our nation's teachers. This project is based on The New York Times bestselling book Teachers Have It Easy: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America's Teachers by journalist and teacher Daniel Moulthrop, co-founder of 826 National and former classroom teacher Nínive Calegari, and writer Dave Eggers. American Teacher is produced by Calegari and Eggers, produced and directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Vanessa Roth, and narrated by Matt Damon.

The organization's latest project follows in the vein of Teachers Have It Easy and American Teacher in telling the important stories of veteran and new teachers, this time through the eyes of someone becoming a teacher. It is a collaboration with author Erica Lorraine Scheidt, who, mid-career, returned to school for a credential, and from the inside is documenting the journey of why people still go into teaching, despite the challenges that surround the profession. A published account of Erica's study, as well as oral histories from a range of voices throughout teaching, will be available at the end of the project in late 2015. This collaboration is made possible by a grant from the Creative Work Fund. Click here to learn more.

Though it is well documented that the most important school-based factor in students' academic achievement and future success is the quality of their teachers, 46 percent of public school teachers leave the profession within the first five years of being in the classroom. Salaries and stress are among the top reasons teachers say they leave. A good teacher has the power to change the course of a life—yet because teachers in the United States have historically had an average annual salary lower than their peers with similar educational backgrounds, 62 percent of our nation's teachers must have second jobs outside of the classroom-like tutoring, mowing lawns, selling stereos, or bartending—to be able to afford to teach.

Research has shown that the top-performing school systems in the world all share one consistent feature: top-performing teachers. In the next five years, almost two million teachers will retire. By following four feature teachers as they reach different milestones in their careers, our film tells the deeper story of the teaching profession in America today, and what we can do to invest in it for tomorrow. It is our hope that American Teacher will engage, challenge, and inspire audiences to be part of an urgently needed progressive social movement, resulting in a real and lasting impact on the lives of our nation’s children.