blog: TAP, my understanding |

blog: TAP, my understanding

Marty Lich
Vail CO, Colorado

This isn’t about TAP being a good thing or about TAP being a bad thing, but it is about potential misperceptions that I hear voiced from time to time.

I do know a few things about TAP though and trust me, there is a lot more that I do not know.

One thing I do know is Dr. Mel Preusser, Eagle County School Superintendent and our School Board of Education (BOE) adopted the Advancement Plan (TAP) in 2002 after a committee worked on finding just the right program for the school district and the voters voted yes on implementing it. I also remember when John Brendza inherited this program to oversee when he became our school superintendent in 2003.

The sad thing is I believe the BOE and Mel Preusser all meant well and that they had hopes the following would happen through TAP, which included the plan to provide staff development for teachers in utilizing successful learning styles and address the needs of diverse student populations , i.e. ‘Differentiated Instruction.’ Those were precisely the students they had identified as “leaving behind” in school. Also at the time we had an annual teacher turnover rate ranging from 8% to 18%; a high loss ratio when compared to other school districts. This was a on-going problem for ECSD before any performance-pay plans were voted into place.

I also believe that implementing TAP might not have had the desired results that the BOE had hoped for. As well as I know that all public schools must follow the federal No Child Left Behind Act, made law in 2001, because they must continue to receive federal funding. That is a simple fact. And from my own simple layman’s understanding of the matter, TAP was to be a win-win deal. Experienced teachers would ‘bring up’ (through mentoring) the new inexperienced teachers. They would all share their successful teaching strategies. The BOE also wanted to ensure that a student could transfer among any and all of our schools in Eagle County and find themselves at exactly the same curriculum level, regardless of which school they were attending. We are transient here, as far as local families hopping up and down valley goes. Our families do those in-district moves a lot throughout the year! And so to ensure that no child was left behind while also ensuing that that federal money would keep flowing our way we had to have all of our schools on not just the same page, but the same page in the same chapter of the same book throughout the year. TAP seemed to provide the answers to all that and much more.

The “facts” on the TAP timeline:

* First, Eagle County voters passed a teachers “performance-pay plan” in 2001, at a 60% margin.

* The next step was to choose a pay-for- performance plan and the BOE appointed a committee of teachers, board members, principals, community leaders, and district administrators to perform extensive research on performance-pay plans. They choose TAP!

* Third, the school district Superintendent secured approval from the school board to use the program TAP.

* Fourth, that school superintendent who secured the approval for TAP was Dr. Mel Preusser, not Mr. John Brendza.

* Fifth, the Board of Education (BOE) reviewed TAP and made the recommendation to go with that program.

ECSD then signed a contract with TAP. I know we taxpayers pay an additional annual sum per student each year for this TAP program implementation as part of the performance-pay plan.

What I do not know is the time remaining on the contract nor do I know the financial repercussions to taxpayers if the school board chooses to ‘opt out’ of the TAP program early. That is question you might all want to ask before we insist that TAP be eliminated. It may be we decide that the tradeoff is not worth the payoff. And then again, maybe it is.

But remember, John Brendza did not have anything to do with the TAP program other than inherit it at stage 1 of its implementation. So to hold out hope that with John stepping down, TAP may step down right along with him is somewhat unlikely.

And sometimes in life, we learn it is best to stop throwing good money after the bad. And sometimes it is a case of making lemonade out of lemons instead. Maybe the BOE can tell us what we are paying and for how much longer we will pay on it. That would be useful information. Then when we are armed with those crucial facts and timeline, we may want a new BOE-appointed committee, just as we had back in 2001, again made up of teachers, board members, principals, community leaders, and district administrators to perform a search on different performance-pay plans. And then again, maybe not.

For the record, this information is neither pro nor con when it comes to TAP. It is just how we got here. What we do about it will be the new chapter in our voters handbook of Eagle County schools.


State of Colorado, Department of Education:


Mel Preusser…………..Superintendent

John Brendza………….Assistant Superintendent

District A…………..Connie Kincaid-Strahan

District B …………. Andy Arnold

District C………….. Keith Thompson

District D…………..Barbara Schierkolk, President

District E……………Scott Green

District F……………Louise Funk, Vice-President

District G…………..Carrie Tedstrom


U.S. Department of Education Contract No. ED-00-CO-0116

A Message from the Secretary of Education

Rod Paige-U.S. Department of Education

In passing the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Congress made a commitment to ensuring that every student has a great teacher.

This report and the information provided on the accompanying Web site ([ ] meet the requirements of Title II of the Higher Education Act


Schools must make a financial commitment to implement TAP.

* Voters in Eagle County, Colorado, Mark Their Ballots for Pay-for-Performance.

Over the past decade, the Eagle County School District in Eagle County, Colorado, was riddled with many problems. Historically, student achievement was at or below the state average, and the schools were not meeting community expectations. A significant achievement gap existed between White and Hispanic students, who made up approximately 45 percent of the district’s population. These problems were further compounded by high teacher and student mobility.


In 2001, the state’s School Finance Act was modified to allow communities to ask their voters for additional funds … The local Eagle County School Board of Education (BOE) saw this new policy as an opportunity to bring about change in the district and to start combating the problems plaguing them. In November 2001, a ballot initiative was proposed to raise the salaries of Eagle County teachers…The expectation was that it would also combine a performance-pay plan that held teachers accountable for student achievement. With this expectation in mind, Eagle County voters passed the initiative…The superintendent secures approval from the school board to use the TAP Instructionally Focused Accountability System to document teacher skills and knowledge for performance awards.

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