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September 4th, 2008
TAP: Teacher Advancement Program

After 13 years of classroom experience, fourth-grade language arts teacher Nancy Johnson – featured in “WHERE WE STAND” – thought she knew pretty much everything about strategies for good teaching. That was before her school, Pleasant Hill Academy in Cincinnati, introduced TAP – Teacher Advancement Program.

A year into TAP, Johnson says she’s built more confidence in the classroom, and is better at communicating critical skills to her students. “Their thinking has improved so much because I know what I need to do in order to get them there. And before, I really didn’t know,” she said.

Research has shown that good teachers are the most important school-related factor for student learning and success – but to date, the U.S. has fallen short when it comes to recruiting and supporting good teachers. In an average school year, approximately 1,000 teachers quit each work day, and another 1,000 move from one school to another. Of these teachers, 56 percent leave because of job dissatisfaction and a desire to change careers. (USDOE) . Worse, almost 50 percent of newly hired teachers leave the profession after the first five years (NCTAF, 2003).

Supported by a mix of government and public funds, TAP was created in 1999 to respond to these challenges. Its goal, simply stated, is to recruit and retain good teachers, provide them opportunities to advance professionally, and offer them better pay.

Today, approximately 200 schools in 13 states have TAP in place. As part of the program, the days teachers used to devote to professional development have been replaced by daily 90-minute “cluster” meetings led by master teachers.

A recent study by the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching measured student achievement gains with TAP schools and teachers to non-TAP schools and teachers. Results show that in all TAP states, TAP teachers outperformed non-TAP teachers in producing an average year’s growth or more in their students’ achievement. The study also shows that more TAP schools outperformed non-TAP schools in producing an average year’s growth or more in both reading and math achievement.

In addition to raising student achievement, the study found that TAP teachers experience higher quality professional development as well as more support and collaboration than non-TAP teachers. TAP schools have also seen a reduction in teacher turnover rates, at the same time attracting new teachers from higher-income schools to teach in high-need schools.

Where state support is lacking, some groups have designed their own teacher advancement programs. One example is the CLASS Project run by Oregon’s Chalkboard Project. The CLASS Project was created by Oregon teachers with the goal of higher student achievement. Similar to TAP, the CLASS Project includes new roles for teachers as leaders and mentors, offering the opportunity of more pay.

Currently three school districts participate in the program, Forest Grove, Sherwood and Tillamook. The independent route of teacher professional development has become a viable option for those against mandated merit pay initiatives.

TEACHERS – Additional Facts:

  • There are currently 3,220,300 elementary and secondary public school teachers in the U.S.
  • The median age of teachers has risen from 33 in 1976 to the mid-40’s today, indicating that there are more teachers nearing retirement age, with fewer young new teachers to replace them. (NIET)
  • Secondary students in high-poverty schools are more likely than those in low-poverty schools to have a teacher who has not majored or even minored in the subject. (NIET)
  • 36 percent of all secondary school teachers who teach math do not have certification or a major in math. Nearly 60 percent of chemistry, physics, earth and space science instructors do not have certification or a major in the subject. (NIET)
  • Average annual salary for elementary and secondary school teacher in 2007 – $47,950. (BLS)
  • Thirty-four states require that all teacher candidates hold content-specific bachelor’s degrees to receive certification. As of 2005, 15 states have no content area degree requirement in place. (USDOE)


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