Grover Heights Elementary School teachers opt out of district training program

Teachers at one elementary school in the Lucia Mar Unified School District have voted to opt out of a teacher training and evaluation program put in place at seven schools in the South County district in 2011.

Grover Heights Elementary School teachers will no longer participate in the Teacher Advancement Program, commonly called TAP, after a majority of teachers at that site chose not to continue it next school year.

The program will continue at six other district schools, including Judkins and Mesa middle schools and four elementary schools: Fairgrove, Dorothea Lange, Nipomo and Oceano.

The TAP system combines weekly “cluster” meetings with small groups of teachers to discuss teaching strategies, multiple teacher observations tied to elements of effective teaching, and the potential for bonus pay based on evaluations and student growth.

The program initially raised concerns for some teachers, who worried about the way the teachers at TAP sites were evaluated and that the program’s potential for performance-based pay could create an unequal situation among teachers at the district’s 18 schools.

Last year, the district and the Lucia Mar Unified Teachers Association reached an agreement that allowed school sites to opt out of the program with a simple majority vote of teachers. It also reduced the number of observations teachers in the TAP program receive to three from four per year.

Still, some teachers may have felt the classroom observations, in which each teacher is evaluated on a 19-point rubric, were too onerous, said teacher’s union President Donna Kandel.

Also, she added, unlike the other schools with the TAP program, Grover Heights Elementary is no longer in program improvement, a probation-like status under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The TAP program helps meet the federal requirements of the program improvement status.

The TAP program is being funded mostly through a $7.2 million, five-year federal Teacher Incentive Fund grant that the district received in 2010. The money pays for TAP at each school except Grover Heights. The program there is funded by the Stuart Foundation, a San Francisco-based independent family foundation.

The TAP program at the remaining six schools is set to end June 30, 2015, unless the district and the teachers agree to continue it after that date. The district would have to secure funding to do so at an estimated cost of about $250,000 per school.