TAP schools improve, teachers eligible for bonus

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By Tess Malijenovsky
Once again Beaufort County Schools are leading the nation in excellence, this time with the TAP teacher advancement program. Last week Dennis Dotterer, state coordinator for TAP, told Board members that fifteen of South Carolina’s 58 TAP schools are located in Beaufort—the most of any district in the state—and teachers at eight of those 15 were eligible for performance pay bonuses ranging from $580 to $4,800. The two highest-achieving TAP schools in the state last year were Beaufort Elementary School and Whale Branch Middle School.
TAP is one of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching’s (NIET) initiatives to provide teachers with opportunities for career advancement, ongoing professional development, a fair evaluation system and performance-based compensation. Its key goal is to develop, reward and retain effective teachers who serve minority and disadvantaged students.
“Teachers at TAP schools can earn higher salaries and advance professionally without leaving the classroom,” Dotterer said. The pay bonuses are based on classroom observations, individual student achievement and school-wide achievement. Another quality of the program is that it measures individual students against their previous test scores. Dotterer said that Whale Branch Middle and Beaufort Elementary, in particular, posted “growth scores that are rarely seen.”
Beaufort and Lady’s Island middle schools introduced TAP in 2002, followed by Whale Branch elementary and middle schools in 2006.  Since then, the program has expanded to include Robert Smalls Middle, Beaufort Elementary, Broad River Elementary, Shell Point Elementary, Battery Creek High, Shanklin Elementary, St. Helena Elementary, Lady’s Island Elementary, Red Cedar Elementary, Port Royal Elementary and Mossy Oaks Elementary.