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TAP stresses achievement

Don Rogers

The Eagle County School Board decided two years ago to embrace the Teacher Achievement Program, which ties a portion of faculty raises to student achievement.

In other words, the teachers would have a chance to earn bigger raises in place of a frankly tired system that rewards them for merely showing up year after year. The field has been perhaps too level, with poor teachers as well as the best getting the same raises. Where’s the reward? Where’s the incentive to improve? And make no mistake, the Eagle County School District needs to improve.

Two years ago, the board followed up on an election pledge to the voters to make merit part of the package if they would approve a cost of living increase in school funding.

Taxpayer advocate Michael Cacioppo thus far has tied up the funding in a lawsuit the state Supreme Court will take up in a hearing next month. Meantime, the revenue collects in case the district gets to use it for the voters’ intended purpose.

As we’ve said several times on this page, Cacioppo has a legitimate right to test the constitutionality of the ballot question 3-D. And the high court has shown enough interest to schedule oral hearings next month.

Meantime, TAP progresses, as it should, now into the final five schools in the district.

It is early to tell whether TAP will be a long-term success, though the results so far are encouraging. Scores have risen higher at TAP schools than the non-TAP schools, and teacher turnover last year – with TAP under way at most schools – was the lowest in a decade.

Any merit-pay plan would raise a similar din among teachers struggling with change, and an uptick in pressure to perform. That’s understandable. There is stress involved in change and in facing higher expectations.

A longtime mediocre – and long recognized as mediocre – district in a mediocre state has been working hard to lift itself to the next level, and should be warmly praised.

The school board, administration and community has worked to dramatically improve the pay for teachers these past few years. Now, we’ve added a component that rewards teachers based in part on their merit rather than for taking classes themselves and for showing up. The need for change has been painfully obvious for years.

Curious, though, that the latest outcry comes a full two years after the district took on the program, which includes plenty of teacher development as well as new standards for performance and the inevitable and, yes, oftentimes uncomfortable feeling from evaluations with actual teeth in them.

The conversations about how to best implement the program are ongoing, and that’s a healthy dialogue. But the discussion over whether to use the program passed two years ago with the school board decision, based on the voters’ say.

Educators still balking at carrying out their assignments at this point probably should leave. They are crossing into insubordination. Their role is to carry out the policy, not decide it. No wonder they won’t attach their names to complaints about new pressure to work harder and in new ways.

We can feel for them. Change is hard. But sorry, the kids come first.

D.R.


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