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TAP (Emphasis on the A)

From Guest Blogger Liana Heitin

For those who know a little about the Teacher Advancement Program but have had trouble discerning the nuances of the initiative (like me), take a look at Stephen’s recent article, which gives the best explanation I have seen.

As poignantly noted, when people hear TAP, they often translate “performance pay”—yet the crux of the model is in the word “advancement.” For some teachers, the open-door policy and constant accountability that enforce the culture of advancement are too much to bear, so they leave—or self-select out. Could this be the answer to President Obama’s call to get bad teachers out of the classroom? Think of it this way: have you ever had a burnt out, idle, or knowingly unproductive teacher invite you into his or her room for an observation? How do “bad” teachers you know react to impromptu visits from colleagues and administrators?

The advancement part of the formula also has possibilities in the realm of teacher retention. In reading about TAP, I found myself thinking of some talented teachers I know who would like to ascend the career ladder but are not interested in becoming administrators (who wants to deal with budgets, staffing, and policy-setting anyway?). Many feel as if they’ve hit a glass ceiling and plan to look outside of the schools when they are ready to make an upward move. TAP, with its incremental progression from “career” to “master” teacher, has the potential to hold on to these teachers by allowing them to exercise their leadership skills from outside the principal’s office.

Maybe I’m being overeager, but it seems like TAP could also be the beginnings of an effort to increase collaboration among teachers in the U.S., who spend far less time working together than teachers in other high-performing countries. And TAP also provides a framework for in-house peer-driven professional development, which is especially valuable in the current budget crunch (see the Teacher Professional Development Sourcebook for more on PD in lean times).

Ok, so even if TAP isn’t the education magic bullet (although some say it’s narrowing the achievement gap as well. . . ), it does have quite a few promising features. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for more TAP-related stories and bring them back to Teacher Beat.

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