The Teacher Salary Project

  • CA


San Francisco

United States

About Us

THE TEACHER SALARY PROJECT encompasses a feature-length documentary film, interactive online resource, and national outreach campaign that delves into the core of our educational crisis as seen through the eyes and experiences of our nation's teachers. The 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 journisalist and teacher Daniel Moulthrop, co-founder of the 826 National writing programs Nínive Calegari, and writer Dave Eggers. American Teacher, the feature-length documentary created by The Teacher Salary Project, is produced by Eggers and Calegari, produced and directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Vanessa Roth, and narrated by actor Matt Damon. It is scheduled to premiere this Fall 2011.

Our educational system must change. Currently, 30 percent of American students drop out of school by age eighteen. Fewer than 30 percent of all eighth-grade students are proficient in grade-level reading and math. Most significantly, students from urban, financially disadvantaged backgrounds are at a greater risk for decreased cognitive development and ability, lower school attendance, and higher rates of grade failure and early drop-out. And 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. 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.

American Teacher is the story by and about those closest to the issues in our educational system-the 3.2 million teachers who spend every day in the classroom in every corner of the country. In keeping with the storytelling styles of both Dave Eggers (writer) and Vanessa Roth (director), American Teacher is a character-driven film that explores this urgent issue through humor, irony, and the energy of the teachers who fill the screen. Since 2008, our team has closely followed the stories of four teachers living and working in disparate urban and rural areas across the country. The film's narrative balances the personal stories of each character with a mixture of interviews and animated facts and statistics by Stefan Nadelman, each highlighting the big sacrifices made by our nation’s teachers, and how these demanding costs force many of our greatest teachers out of the profession. The film is narrated by Matt Damon, who is passionate about education, and includes an original musical score by Thao Nguyen.

American Teacher has won the silver award in the documentary category of the 34th Annual Philadelphia International Film Festival and is scheduled to officially premiere in September 2011. Following the premiere, we are planning an explosion of screenings across the country following our film's release. And The Teacher Salary Project wants to plan a screening of American Teacher in your neighborhood! But we need your help.

If you are interested in helping coordinate or lead a local community screening, or if you are interested in internship opportunities, please contact

"Now there is a reason why so many of us remember a favorite teacher forever. A great teacher can literally change the course of a student's life. They light a lifelong curiosity, a desire to participate in democracy, and instill a thirst for knowledge. It's no surprise that studies repeatedly document that the single biggest influence on student academic growth is the quality of the teacher standing in front of the classroom—not socioeconomic status, not family background, but the quality of the teacher at the head of the class." - Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education