We all want the best possible education for our children, and research has shown that the single most important school-related factor for student success is having a talented teacher in the classroom. But unless action is taken now, America will come far short of having the talented teachers required to ensure that all children receive the high-quality education they need and deserve.
More Teachers, Better Teachers
In the 1990s, education in America was leaving too many of our children behind. Education reform pioneer and Milken Family Foundation Chairman Lowell Milken, along with others at the Milken Family Foundation (MFF) already noted for its national teacher awards brought together the best available research to develop a comprehensive, systemic school reform model to address the challenges facing K-12 education. They created TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement, a bold new strategy to attract, retain, develop and motivate talented people to the teaching profession. Because of its broad-based support, results, and high demand, TAP is now managed and supported by the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET), a public charity.
TAP's goal is to draw more talented people to the teaching profession and keep them there by making it more attractive and rewarding to be a teacher. TAP provides teachers with:
- Powerful opportunities for professional growth;
- The ability to collaborate with peers during the school day;
- Fair and rigorous classroom evaluations to identify and improve teaching skills;
- School-based professional development led by expert master and mentor teachers to analyze student needs and identify strategies for student learning; and
- The opportunity to take on a new role as master or mentor teacher in order to earn higher salaries and advance professionally, just as in other careers, without leaving the classroom.
TAP is based on four elements:
Multiple Career Paths
Under the current system, the most common way for good teachers to increase their salaries is to become administrators. Unfortunately, this takes them out of the classroom, where they are needed most.
TAP allows teachers to pursue a variety of positions throughout their careers career, mentor and master teacher depending upon their interests, abilities and accomplishments. As they move up the ranks, their qualifications, roles and responsibilities increase and thus, so does their compensation. This allows good teachers to advance without leaving the classroom.
Ongoing Applied Professional Growth
An overwhelming majority of teachers in recent surveys indicate that the traditional professional development they receive is ineffective. We know that teachers learn more, just as we all do, when given the opportunity to collaborate with peers, focus on the specific needs of students in their schools, and learn every day rather than in a monthly seminar.
TAP restructures the school schedule to provide time during the day for teachers to meet, learn, plan, mentor and share with other teachers, so they can constantly improve the quality of their instruction and hence, increase their students' academic achievement. This collaborative time allows teachers to learn new instructional strategies with the support of expert master and mentor teachers located in their own schools.
Ongoing Applied Professional Growth in TAP schools focuses on identified needs based on instructional issues that teachers face with their students. Teachers use data to target these areas of need, instead of trying to implement the latest fad in professional development.
Instructionally Focused Accountability
Most people agree that the best teachers should be paid more than ineffective teachers. But what makes an effective teacher?
TAP has developed a comprehensive system for evaluating teachers and rewards them for how well they teach their students. Teachers are held accountable for meeting the TAP Teaching Skills, Knowledge and Responsibility Standards, as well as for the academic growth of their students.
In most professions, people are rewarded and promoted for how well they perform their jobs. Unfortunately, teaching has too often been the exception to this rule.
TAP changes the current system by compensating teachers according to their roles and responsibilities, their performance in the classroom, and the performance of their students. The new system also encourages districts to offer competitive salaries to those who teach in hard-to-staff subjects and schools.
By combining these elements in an effective strategy for reform, TAP is working to turn teaching from a revolving-door profession into a highly rewarding career choice. The real reward will be the outstanding education available to each and every student in the country.
Barry Whittington, Career Teacher, Donaldsonville High School, Ascension Parish, Louisiana
". . . The TAP process places an emphasis on support from master and mentor teachers who come into my classroom to help me implement the strategies we are learning. As I grow professionally, the TAP process assists me in monitoring the strengths and weaknesses of my students and gives me the tools I need to develop strategies so that all of my students are engaged, enriched and successful learners."