Teachers ‘TAP’ into feelings
EAGLE COUNTY – Since its introduction five years ago, Eagle County teachers have been reticent about publicly voicing their opinions of the controversial Teacher Advancement Program, also known as TAP. However, given the cloak of anonymity, they did speak up in an anonymous survey conducted last spring by the Eagle County Education Association, he local teachers’ union. Out of 300 surveys distributed, 200 teachers responded.
“A lot of what we heard was concern about this TAP program,” said Dennis Carlson, director of Ski Country UniServ, which did the survey. TAP uses a system of frequent evaluations and mentor and master teachers to help teachers improve their skills. The program also ties evaluations and students’ standardized test scores to pay raises.”They had concerns about how it was creating regular stress for teachers,” Carlson said. “They felt they weren’t being listened to by the school board or the school district.”The responses range from teachers enthusiastically in favor of the TAP program to those heatedly against it. What emerges is a picture of a program that has caused some dissension.Teachers were asked to answer two questions:• How has TAP impacted your job?• How has TAP impacted your students?The responses were varied, and filled more than 30 pages. A significant number of teachers said TAP had given them new skills and ideas for the classroom. Others wrote that TAP had not helped improve their teaching skills and were resentful of the time taken away from the classroom. Stress was a frequent complaint, along with far more paperwork and more meetings, and less time in which to do it all.Eagle County School District Superintendent John Brenzda said he is aware of these sentiments. “Any time you initiate a new program with significant change, stress is associated with it. It’s human nature,” Brenzda saidBut, he added, he is taking the comments to heart.”First off, any time you get feedback from our teachers, you have to pay attention,” he said, adding that many of the comments are consistent with what turns up in the district’s ownsurveys.The district also has brought in a consultant group to help assess TAP’s impacts.Some teachers voiced said TAP forces them to “teach to the tests.” But others said TAP has helped student achievement by raising the bar and improving student focus. But at least as many other teachers said TAP had no effect on student achievement.What the vast majority of teachers seemed to like best about TAP is the collaboration it encourages among teachers.
Before TAP was initiated, Brenzda said, teacher development opportunities occurred maybe two or three times a year. Now, he says, TAP offers roughly two hours of staff development per day.One of the most controversial parts of TAP is the evaluations. The teachers are judged by administrators and students’ results on statewide tests such as CSAP.”We’ve had teachers say, if it wasn’t an issue where pay was attached, (TAP) would be easier to take,” Carlson sai/Brenzda says since TAP began, teachers have received, on average, more than they did under the old system. On the old pay schedule, Brenzda said, a new teacher with a bachelor’s degree might make about $35,000, with an average pay raise of $700 for the next year.The average annual pay bonus with TAP is around $1,200, which is paid in a lump sum in August. Then, that same amount is added to their salary for the following year. In effect, for one year, they receive $2,400 on average.”We want not just for the program to be successful,” Brendza said, “we want to provide an infrastructure so the kids will be successful.”This article first appeared in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.Vail Daily, Vail Colorado CO