TAP not ready for prime time | VailDaily.com

TAP not ready for prime time

Scott N. Miller

One of the state’s top education officials wants local school board members to take the district’s reform plan on the road. In a year or two, they might.Out on a tour of school districts, state Board of Education Chairman Jared Polis stopped for a chat with the Eagle County School Board recently.Much of the conversation involved Polis’ curiousity about the progress of the Teacher Advancement Program, a major element of the district’s pay-for-performance plan.Telling board members that state officials are monitoring the progress of the TAP plan, Polis asked when the district will be ready to take its results out to various educational conferences.Board members replied it’s still too soon and asked for at least another year before taking the TAP show on the road, the main reason being that the district is still putting the system in, with the last five schools ready to start this coming school year.The TAP program, about to begin its third year in the district, includes pay-for-performance and professional development elements.Teachers are eligible for a pot of bonus pay that could be as high as $2,500 individually if all of several benchmarks are hit. (No one has yet hit all those targets.) Whatever bonus pay a teacher gets at the end of the school year is then added to his or her base salary for the next year.School officials, though, say the program’s professional development pieces are every bit as important as the pay.During the school year, teachers spend several hours a week in “cluster” groups in which educators talk about teaching methods, students’ performance and other parts of the day-to-day business of the school. They are also reviewed and counseled by “mentor” and “master” teachers several times a year.While many younger teachers have welcomed the system, other teachers have grumbled that TAP cuts into classroom time and that they think it is an unneeded intrusion into their classrooms.”You wouldn’t run a corporation by training people once a year,” Director of Secondary Education Mike Gass said in answer to critics.While the debate is likely to continue, the school board remains committed to the program.”We know it’s the right direction. Public education has to take take this turn in order to progress,” Funk said. With that said, though, Funk added that she wants to wait before administrators and other officials start presenting professional associations with the district’s results.Meanwhile, Polis, a strong advocate of education reform, is eager to see what there is to see in Eagle County.”I don’t want to rush them,” Polis said. “But this is a first for Colorado, and there’s a desire to hear about it in other parts of the state.”Other parts of the state might not have as easy a time switching as Eagle County did. Funk said the district was able to switch rapidly to its TAP model for several reasons, including the lack of a teachers union. Instead, the district has an “association,” which represents only a portion of the district’s teachers.Even when district officials hit the road to present the program, the model other state educators will see will be a guideline, not a blueprint.TAP has minor differences from school to school within the district, Gass said. That’s a good thing, he added, since staffs and administrators at different schools can adapt the plan to their school’s needs.”Any district will have to modify it,” Funk said. “No two programs will ever look alike.”

The Eagle County School District is ready to enter the third year of its three-year program to implement the Teacher Advancement Program at the district’s 15 schools, not counting the Eagle County Charter Academy.Already in the program are Gypsum Elementary, Red Hill Elementary, Avon Elementary, Minturn Middle and Red Canyon High Schoo, Meadow Mountain Elementary, Red Sandstone Elementary, Edwards Elementary, Gypsum Creek Middle and Eagle Valley Middle.This year, Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley high schools will join the program, as will Berry Creek Middle School, Eagle Valley Elementary and Brush Creek Elementary.