The facts about TAP |

The facts about TAP

Brooke Skjonsby
Vail CO, Colorado

This fall marks the beginning of Eagle County Schools’ sixth year of implementation of the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP), a systemic reform effort designed to increase student achievement and provide educators with ongoing opportunities to grow and advance professionally. We recognize that worthwhile change is rarely easy, but our children are worth the effort. The program, funded by Eagle County Schools, includes a complete restructuring of staff development and support for classroom teachers, along with the implementation of a performance-based compensation system. The four TAP elements combined ” multiple career paths, ongoing, applied professional growth, instructionally-focused accountability, and performance-based compensation ” create a powerful reform to ensure a highly effective teacher in every classroom everyday.

As a district, Eagle County Schools strives to cultivate the development of our children AND our teachers. Traditionally, the only option a teacher had to be promoted in public education was to become a school principal or district administrator. This took many highly effective teachers out of the classroom, where they are needed most. Now, through TAP’s multiple career paths, teachers in Eagle County can pursue a variety of positions throughout their careers depending upon their interests, abilities and accomplishments. And through weekly “cluster meetings,” they can collaborate with veteran and new teachers alike to create the best instructional practices to meet the needs of every student. TAP’s ongoing, applied professional growth allows teachers to guide each other along a path to success ” not leave them behind a closed door without the proper coaching and feedback to excel.

Based on multiple, fair evaluations of teacher skills, knowledge and responsibilities, in addition to student achievement growth at the classroom and school-wide levels, Eagle County Schools uses a research-based system for evaluating teachers, providing them with support to improve their skills and rewarding them for how well their students learn. Each teacher is evaluated two times a year by several trained and certified evaluators using a comprehensive rubric. Teachers who qualify for a performance award are paid a lump sum bonus on their final check of the contract year. Depending on state funding for K-12 education, that bonus or a portion of it is then added to the teacher’s salary. Performance awards are determined by 50 percent teacher skills, knowledge and responsibility demonstrated by evaluation scores, 25 percent individual student achievement demonstrated by Northwest Evaluation Association scores and 25 percent schoolwide achievement demonstrated by the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) scores. ACT scores are also included at the high school level.

We are not alone in recognizing the importance of excellent teachers; BusinessWeek recognized TAP as one of the Top 10 innovative school reform measures (BusinessWeek Online, 6.26.06). Recently, we received further validation of our reform efforts with the U.S. Department of Education’s award of a $6.7 million Teacher Incentive Fund grant to expand our performance-based compensation system over the next five years and serve as a model for schools throughout the nation. Eagle County Schools received one of only 16 grants awarded nationwide.

The intent of Eagle County Schools has always been to recruit, retain, and reward high-quality teaching to ensure high achievement for all students. We understand that our educators are charged with working in a county where the cost of living rises exponentially each year and the population of our schools is extremely diverse, which requires a unique approach to educating our children. TAP enables us to reward our outstanding teachers for rising to the challenge of making sure our students achieve success in their education.

If you would like more factual information related to our reform effort, please contact Traci Wodlinger, district TAP coordinator and project director for the Teacher Incentive Fund grant at

Brooke Skjonsby is the Eagle County Schools director of communication. E-mail comments about this column to

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