By David Carroll

NEW YORK (WRCB)- Sitting on a stage usually reserved for fake newscasts, political satire and rock bands, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan got applause for a different reason.

Duncan was a featured speaker during NBC's Education Nation summit meeting Monday, where heavy rain forced the evacuation of outdoor studios housed in tents.  His announcement of a massive teacher recruitment program was made during a televised interview with NBC's Tom Brokaw in Studio 8-H, on the big stage best known for hosting Saturday Night Live.

Duncan announced a program to encourage high schoolers and college students to consider teaching, which he called "a very lucrative career."  He said with the economy improving and "baby-boomer teachers" about to retire, teaching jobs would be plentiful in the next 4-6 years.

He said four-year, $4,000 annual grants would be available, and particularly encouraged "men of color" to enter the field.  He proposed higher salaries, with emphasis on teachers who accept positions in low-performing schools, or in hard-to-fill subject areas like math, science and Special Education.  He said teacher could no longer be considered "a third class profession."

Duncan noted that US college graduation rates, once best in the world, had fallen to ninth.  And he said his department had failed to "engage parents," so he vowed to partner with the national PTA to foster parental involvement.

Here is the complete release from the U.S. Department of Education:

 The campaign features a new website——dedicated to providing information and resources for students and prospective teachers — including a new interactive "pathway to teaching" tool designed to help individuals chart their course to becoming a teacher. PSAs by celebrities, members of the Obama administration, and local leaders celebrating our nation's teachers and urging today's students to teach are also available on

"With more than a million teachers expected to retire in the coming years, we have a historic opportunity to transform public education in America by calling on a new generation to join those already in the classroom," said Secretary Duncan. "We are working with the broader education community to strengthen and elevate the entire teaching profession so that every teacher has the support and training they need to succeed."

The campaign has several goals, including:

  • Increasing the number, quality and diversity of people seeking to become teachers, particularly in high-need schools (rural and urban) and subject areas in greatest demand: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), English Language Learners (ELL), and Special Education;
  • Connecting aspiring teachers with information about the pathways to teaching including preparation, certification, training and mentoring;
  • Celebrating and honoring the profession of teaching

The campaigns will also encourage more minority males to pursue careers in the classroom. Nationwide, more than 35 percent of public school students are black or Hispanic, but less than 15 percent of teachers are Black or Latino. Less than two percent of our nation's teachers are African-American males.

"Education is the great equalizer in America. If you care about promoting opportunity and reducing inequality, the classroom is the place to start. Great teaching is about so much more than education," said Duncan.

The campaign will include partners throughout the Obama Administration including Second Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, a community college professor, and a leader in the Administration's efforts to improve education. "I know firsthand the extraordinary rewards and also the challenges of being a teacher," said Dr. Biden. "Every day in the classroom I see the power of education to break down barriers, instill confidence, and put my students on the path to success."

The Department will be working with Facebook to launch an interactive application on the TEACH Facebook page that will connect current teachers with young people. The application is designed to allow those with questions about the profession to engage directly with an experienced teacher and ask questions. The Department will also be collaborating with Ebony magazine on a series of teaching roundtables across the country.