Leaders of Knox County Schools, Tennessee, were surprised with the TAP Award of Distinction, which honors an organization for its dedication and commitment to TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement.  The Award comes with a financial prize of $10,000.  It was presented before more than 1,200 educators and policy leaders during a special Saturday luncheon at the 13th National TAP Conference in Washington, D.C.  Superintendent Dr. James P. McIntyre, Jr., accepted the award on the district’s behalf.


TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement is America’s leading comprehensive education reform offering teachers career advancement, professional development, educator evaluation and performance-based compensation.  For more than ten years, TAP has worked to improve teacher effectiveness and student achievement in high-need urban, rural and suburban schools and districts across the country.  It is managed and supported by the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching.


“Knox County Schools has demonstrated strong dedication to TAP and has served as a model in the region and statewide,” said Dr. Gary Stark, president and chief executive officer of NIET.  “I congratulate Superintendent McIntyre and the entire district on this recognition.”


Knox County Schools initially began TAP implementation in 2006 with three schools.  It added a fourth the following year, all supported by local funds and the Great Schools Partnership.  Motivated by the schools’ success, the district partnered with NIET on a federal Teacher Incentive Fund grant in 2010 to expand TAP to 14 additional schools.


The components of TAP are now being utilized in other schools throughout the district, and the pilot schools served as a model for Tennessee’s statewide teacher evaluation system, the Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model (TEAM).


“TAP takes what we know from research and common sense and puts it together in a singular structure focused on high-quality instruction and student learning,” said McIntyre.  “It provides the support for our teachers to be able to get there.  That’s incredibly powerful.”


As part of TAP, each school has master and mentor teachers in place who, along with the principal and other administrators, form the TAP Leadership Team.  This team drives instruction through daily professional development, follow-up, classroom observations, and pre- and post-conferences with every teacher.


According to 2011-12 data, 14 of the district’s schools exceeded growth targets.  Eleven of the new schools achieved the highest value-added score of 5 after their first year of implementation, showing that they significantly outperformed projected student growth compared to similar schools in the state.

“The most powerful thing from the students’ perspective is that they see their teachers actively learning new strategies every day,” said Angie Messer, mentor teacher at Carter High School.  “What better way to teach and inspire our students to become lifelong learners than to have them see us learning, too?”


As Holston Middle School Career Teacher Whitney Barnett added, “As a new teacher, being able to walk into a school that has done TAP for six years was probably the biggest gift for my professional career that I could have had.”


Knox County Schools joins Ascension Parish Schools, Louisiana, as the 2013 TAP Award of Distinction recipients.