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TAP, an imperfect solution in an imperfect world

Marty Lich

Seems the Eagle County School District is reaping more than their fair share of public, but “no name please,” tongue lashings regarding TAP these days.

TAP is the acronym for the Teacher Advancement Program. Taxpaying residents in Eagle County ask why the need, why the implementation, why the cost?

The answer is:

– Because the federal act, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), says something must be done.

– Because our school superintendent had to put some school improvement plan (SIP) in place to meet these federal guidelines.

– Because if our school district chose a new unproven SIP path and it failed, then who would you blame?

– Because we have our own set of issues to deal with here. Our school district has its fair share of transient students, moving from one end of the valley to the other, leaving our country for theirs and then back again. Is that OK? Well no. Stability creates a better learning environment. But when life hands you lemons, you try to make lemonade. Our district has a 24/7 lemonade stand. And this stand is staying comfortably in the black. Should it begin to operate in the red, failing to meet the federal standards of No Child Left Behind, well then, “We have a problem, Houston.”

– Because a failure to comply with federal standards carries serious funding consequences for all of us.

– Because our district has a contract to fulfill with the Milken Family Foundation, the originators behind TAP. We cannot walk away even if we wanted to walk away.

So I wonder.

I wonder what you would do differently if you found yourself in our school district’s position? I have yet to see any solutions, I read only criticism.

I wonder if you realize that we were losing our brightest students before TAP; they were the ones being “Left Behind.” That is changing now and is one “positive” for your TAP time-and-money investment.

I wonder how many hours you devote to help further the education of your child. And your neighbor? Perhaps the trade-off for apathy is the realization that you reap what you sow. It is hard to grow crops if you don’t plant the seeds. Rich soil or not. Please understand that passing the buck is not a solution. It is easy to criticize from the sidelines; it is harder to make an effort.

You and I also know that good teachers do not need TAP. They are good teachers regardless. We are fortunate enough to have more than our share of good teachers here. For these teachers, TAP often intervenes in a negative sense and it is a shame. It is also part of the sad reality of why we lose good teachers.

No solution is perfect, there is always a downside. If answers to dilemmas created the perfect solutions we would live in Utopia. But we do not live in Utopia so we look for less-than-perfect but workable solutions, and hence lies TAP.

The positive side of this lemon is it forced all of America’s public schools to take a hard look at who they were failing. Some of it came as a surprise to them.

And finally, for whatever reason, people in our society tend to place all responsibility for their failures on someone else. You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink. We have the water, you are raising the horse, but our schools, all by themselves, cannot force the horse to drink.

Our children are America’s future. Please invest more than just talk in your child’s educational experience. Then perhaps in the future we will no longer need NCLB and TAP.

Would that be just perfect or what? VT

Marty Lich is a Gypsum resident and a regular columnist for The Vail Trail. E-mail comments about this column to editor@vailtrail.com


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