TAP and Change

For the past 20 years I’ve have been an elementary teacher in a classroom much like most people have experienced. Students in desks or at tables, teacher teaching, computers in the classroom, library, lesson planning, correcting homework, pulling students along, trying to challenge others, recess, parents and principals, and all the other things that are part and parcel of teaching. This past Spring my school began the journey of change through a program called TAP- the Teacher Advancement Program.

Sometime during the school year teachers were told that our district had applied for and received a HUGE grant.  TIF- Teacher Incentive Fund is a federal grant that has at its core merit pay for teachers and our district had received a 7.1 million dollar grant to be disbursed over five years. The grant was to be used to implement a program called TAP, the Teacher Advancement Program.

For many people in the teaching profession, merit pay raises red flags. The issue can be distilled to the fact that a teacher never knows what the make up of the incoming class will be. Will it be heavy on children living in poverty, minority and from under educated families, or will it have children from  wealthy, white and educated households? These have a huge impact on how well a teacher’s class scores. Each year the mix is different and comparing teachers based upon a test of the students is widely seen as missing the mark on how well a teacher is teaching.

My personal journey with TAP begins here.  For a day of teacher training, two representatives from a TAP school in Texas were coming to our district to present how they implement the program. I attended to learn more about it,  including the merit pay component, but I left with a curiosity to learn more and a suspicion that this might be a pretty good opportunity for teachers.

The two people turned out to be a principal and a teacher. Hearing their story and in particular, the experience of the teacher in TAP was fundamental in starting me on the road to TAP.

The teacher, a young man who had been in the classroom for 4 years, talked about how he was struggling and thinking about leaving the profession when the Teacher Advancement Program was implemented at his site. He shared that the support offered by the program allowed him to learn how to handle his class, the lessons and provide him with the skills to be successful as a teacher.

So it turned out that the original hook for me was the red flag of merit pay, but at the end of the two hour session it was apparent that there was much more to learn. Next up, a tour of Texas.

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