Local News

Wake hopes to expand teacher incentive program

Posted October 22, 2009 6:50 a.m. EDT

Wake County Public School System

— A new teachers' incentives program in Wake County is earning high marks. Wilburn Elementary School in Raleigh is the only school in the state to have the Teacher Advancement Program, also known as TAP.

After using TAP for one year, the school made Adequate Yearly Progress, and some Wake County school leaders want to expand the program to other schools.

Fifth grade teacher Shakira Williams is one of the teachers using TAP at Wilburn. Every week, she meets with her mentor teacher, Stacy Goode, who helps her devise and dissect her lesson plans.

“It really made me pay more attention as an educator where my strengths are as well as my weaknesses,” Williams said.

Goode mentors seven teachers at the school and helps them brainstorm ideas and go over strategy.

“Just encouraging each other and supporting each other really helps children in the classroom, because we’re all pulling together our best ideas,” Goode said.

Data shows that the ideas seem to be working. Wilburn has 60 percent of its students on Free and Reduced Lunch. This year, the school is off the school improvement list because it made AYP.

TAP rewards that achievement. Every classroom saw a boost in test scores, so every teacher received a bonus. Wilburn paid $52,000 in bonuses among its 49 teachers.

Wake County school board member Eleanor Goettee said she wants other schools to use TAP.

“It’s a serious support system for all teachers in a building,” she said.

TAP trains educators as career, mentor or master teachers, but the staffing and pay-for-performance means the program requires financial support. It costs about $500 per child or $350,000 for a school like Wilburn.

“That’s why, currently, the only schools even able to support this model without additional funds are our school-wide, Title I schools,” Goettee said.

Title I schools, or high-poverty schools, get federal funding, some of which can pay for TAP. Federal teacher incentive grants are good for five years. The Wake school board has directed staff to encourage high-poverty schools to apply in time for next school year.

The Milken Family Foundation created TAP in 1999 to address the nation's teacher shortage and lack of professional development and support.