Opinion
Teaching Profession Letter to the Editor

La., Texas Districts See Gains From TAP

April 16, 2012 2 min read

To the Editor:

I was surprised to read the recent Report Roundup item about Chicago’s experience with the Teacher Advancement Program (“No Achievement Boost Found for Chicago TAP,” March 14, 2012). My experience has been completely different. I have been a school superintendent for more than 30 years and have seen many programs come and go. However, TAP sustains itself. Since adopting TAP in 2008, we have found that, quite simply, the TAP system is a comprehensive, well-researched program that works. We believe so strongly in TAP that we have implemented the system districtwide.

The DeSoto Parish, La., school system’s commitment to TAP is reflected in the continuous growth of our teachers and students. The nine schools with value-added growth data available met or exceeded those targets for the 2010-11 year compared with similar schools in Louisiana. Five of our schools scored a 5, indicating “far above average” growth compared with similar schools in the state. We are also proud to note that we have improved our state’s district-performance score each year since implementing TAP.

The TAP system changes the culture in a district, focusing educators as a team on advancing teaching and learning. If a district makes TAP central to its mission, the results are powerful.

Walter C. Lee

Superintendent

DeSoto Parish Schools

Mansfield, La.

To the Editor:

I am the superintendent of the Lancaster, Texas, school district, where all of the campuses are implementing the Teacher Advancement Program as our vehicle of transformation. Our student-achievement results are different from what was reported in the Mathematica Policy Research report about TAP in Chicago.

Throughout TAP’s expansion, we have focused on implementing the program with a high level of fidelity and, in turn, have reaped the rewards of significant growth for our teachers and students. For the 2010-11 school year, our district scored 4.5 on a 5-point scale for value-added student achievement—significantly above-average results compared with those of similar schools. In addition, five of our seven TAP schools were labeled “recognized” by the state—the second-highest accountability level.

It is clear to me that TAP’s focus on instructional improvement is a key element in our students’ strong achievement gains. After reading the entire report, it is obvious to me that the absence of a teacher value-added component within the teacher-evaluation formula and the lack of rigorous implementation are likely reasons why significant achievement results were not realized in Chicago.

It is exactly the teacher-level value-added scores that inform us concerning specific staff development and intervention needs. We have refused to modify the TAP model and have been rewarded for our courage. Our commitment is to continue measuring teacher effectiveness based on value-added performance, school value-added scores, and classroom observations.

These multiple measures collectively inform our payout formulas, job-embedded staff development, and improvement plans. Implementation of TAP with fidelity is simply the right thing to do, and when TAP is done right, our students are the beneficiaries.

Michael McFarland

Superintendent

Lancaster Independent School District

Lancaster, Texas

A version of this article appeared in the April 18, 2012 edition of Education Week as La., Texas Districts See Gains From TAP

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