The Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) is dedicated to attracting, developing, motivating and retaining high-caliber educators in order to raise achievement levels for all students.
Launched in 1999 by the Milken Family Foundation and now operated by the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, TAP seeks to restructure and revitalize the profession by creating an environment in which teachers and students alike can thrive. It does so by offering educators sustained opportunities for career advancement, ongoing school-based professional development, instructionally focused accountability and performance pay.
TAP builds broad-based support among educators, union leaders, policymakers, corporations, governments, foundations and individuals to help close achievement gaps and ensure a quality educational opportunity for all students.
What Is the Teacher Advancement Program?
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 we act now, we 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
To address this problem, the Milken Family Foundation created the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP), a bold new strategy to attract, retain, develop and motivate talented people to the teaching profession.
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 the opportunity for good teachers to earn higher salaries and advance professionally, just as in other careers, without leaving the classroom.
At the same time, TAP helps teachers become the best they can be, by giving them opportunities to learn better teaching strategies and holding them accountable for their performance.
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 often 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 having to leave the classroom.
How Multiple Career Paths looks in the schools:
Based on their skills, knowledge, ambitions and interests, classroom teachers in a TAP school have the opportunity to advance to master or mentor teacher positions. Master and mentor teachers are selected through a competitive, rigorous, performance-based selection process. Master and mentor teachers must have expert curricular knowledge, outstanding instructional skills, and the ability to work effectively with other adults. They take on additional responsibility and authority, and are required to have a longer work year. Master and mentor teachers are held to a different performance standard than other teachers in their school, and are compensated accordingly.
Along with the principal, master and mentor teachers are part of the school's Leadership Team and are responsible for setting specific annual student learning goals. They oversee all TAP activities aimed at meeting these goals. Among their many additional responsibilities, masters and mentors, along with the principal, also conduct teacher evaluations that are tied to teacher performance awards. The Milken Family Foundation provides training and certification services to prepare masters and mentors to effectively conduct professional growth activities and teacher evaluations.
Ongoing, Applied Professional Growth
Teachers seldom have time to learn new techniques and strategies that would help them become better teachers. Also, few teachers get the chance to collaborate with each other or to learn from those with more experience.
TAP restructures the school schedule to provide time during the regular school 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 and have greater opportunity to become more effective teachers.
Ongoing Applied Professional Growth in TAP schools focuses on identified needs based on instructional issues that specific teachers face with specific students. Teachers use data to target these areas of need, instead of trying to implement the latest fad in professional development.
How Ongoing Applied Professional Growth looks in the schools:
In TAP schools, Ongoing Applied Professional Growth means that time is set aside for teacher learning which is always focused on increasing student learning. This includes: cluster groups and individual growth plans (IGP). Cluster groups meet for one to two hours weekly during contract time in grade-alike or subject-alike groups. Clusters are led by expert instructors in the school—the master and/or mentor teachers.
Each teacher is also expected to have an IGP that includes identified goals and activities within clusters and classrooms that support new teacher learning. This new teacher learning is required to meet an identified student learning need. Cluster work and IGPs follow the TAP STEPS for Effective Learning that provides a framework for improving instruction to meet student-learning needs. The STEPS guide teachers to:
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.
How Instructionally Focused Accountability looks in the schools:
All teachers are held accountable in a TAP school by participating in the TAP instructionally focused evaluation system. Within this system, each teacher is evaluated four to six times a year by multiple trained and certified evaluators using the TAP Teaching Skills, Knowledge and Responsibility Standards. All teachers in the school are evaluated collectively based on the learning growth of all students in the school. Further, each teacher is also evaluated individually based on how much learning growth the students in his or her classroom have achieved during the school year. TAP also provides ongoing training, mentoring and classroom support during the school day to help teachers meet these accountability standards, while providing financial incentives for success. Master and mentor teachers are also held accountable for their additional roles and responsibilities.
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.
How Performance-Based Compensation looks in the schools:
TAP Performance-Based Compensation means that teachers are compensated differentially based on the increased demands of the positions they hold, how well they perform in those positions, the quality of their instructional performance and by their students' achievement growth. Salary is determined by more than simply years of teaching experience and training credits. All teachers are eligible for financial awards based on these factors.