Gladewater ISD receiving $4.6M grant for teacher improvement program

Gladewater ISD receiving $4.6M grant for teacher improvement program
Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 7:12 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 24, 2023 at 7:13 PM CST

GLADEWATER, Texas (KLTV) - Many educators say the COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected student’s learning. Gladewater ISD is one of four school districts in Texas to receive a grant for a new program that is designed to help teachers improve their teaching skills. And it’s all based on how well individual students are learning.

At all schools at Gladewater ISD there is a classroom dedicated to teachers. The weekly meetings geared towards grades or subjects are called clusters according to Gladewater ISD Executive Master TAP Teacher Kim Dolese.

“It is actual professional development on the work that students are doing in real time. And then those teachers take those skills back to the classroom,” Dolese said.

The program is called TAP System and Dolese says it’s not an acronym, it’s representative of tapping into one’s abilities.

“It’s a system of building a capacity in teachers that was created by the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching,” Dolese said.

They are giving $4.6 million to GISD, and most of it will go out as bonuses to teachers who become better teachers. The proof of that is shown in student improvement. On a wall in the cluster room are names of students that are moved up or down depending on how they are doing. A sort of group report card for the teachers to see.

“We have mentor teachers and master teachers who help improve the capacity of other teachers on their campus. The very best teachers in front of kids every day creates growth in students,” Dolese said.

Think of it as Dolese is the sheriff with a couple captains: master teachers, and several lieutenants: mentor teachers, who make sure the deputies, or teachers, are learning better how to teach based on how well their, and other students are doing. Eighth Grade Social Studies Teacher Andy Reynolds is a mentor at the lieutenant level. He trained for it last summer.

“I was so overwhelmed when we first started going through the training about it. I just really had a lot of doubts, not that it would work, but if I could work in it. But, as the year has gone along I just noticed that not only has there been less resistance. I’ve become better. This is my twelfth year of doing this and I see a lot more growth this year than any other year I’ve had in education,” Reynolds said.

“Teacher evaluation, student growth all comes together and the teachers can earn additional performance-based compensation by their work and by their students’ work,” Dolese said.

Which of course means a bigger paycheck if doing well. And how do the students feel about it?

Well, no one has told them it’s happening. At the middle school they’re putting emphasis on concise writing. So, during gym class they’re doing a little pre-activity writing with a P.E. theme, right there on the gym floor. Why not, right?

Gladewater ISD says students are showing improvement and are engaged. And they believe the teachers are, too. They hope this better prepares the kids for the coming STAAR testing.