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A Message from the Founder

Lowell Milken

Through interacting with thousands of teachers in classrooms across America and collaborating with experts in education, business, research and policy, I firmly believe — and our work confirms — that putting teachers, principals and superintendents front and center of advancing educator effectiveness can provide all children with a quality academic opportunity every year they are in school.

We know from research that aside from home and family, the single most important factor driving student performance is the quality of the teacher in the classroom. The most effective teachers produce as much as five times the learning gains of the least effective teachers. And four consecutive years of high-quality teachers can close the achievement gap. With these facts in mind, you would think that the K-12 system would be structured in a way to attract large numbers of talented people to teaching, and then create an environment in which they could thrive. Instead tragically, half of new teachers leave within the first five years, and those who do leave tend to have scored highest on both subject matter and pedagogy exams. The nation's extraordinary educational challenges, compounded by a fierce battle for human capital in an ultra-competitive global society, heighten the urgency to attract and retain teaching talent more than ever before.

In this revolutionary age of opportunity on a global scale, America's talented young people have many choices to make a positive impact in society, both nationally and internationally. How, then, do we motivate the best and brightest to choose education as a career? This is the driving force behind our signature initiatives at the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching: TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement and the Educator Effectiveness Best Practices Center.

As the nation's largest multi-year, multi-state effort for advancing performance-based evaluation, the TAP System improves student learning by providing teachers with powerful opportunities for career advancement, professional growth, fair accountability and competitive compensation. The resulting advances in teacher quality and student achievement have generated an exponential demand for TAP and similar models. Colleges of education are increasingly utilizing the TAP model to ensure that educators are well-prepared at the outset for the challenges of the classroom.

The NIET Educator Effectiveness Best Practices Center offers innovative services, support and solutions to districts and states working to shape educator effectiveness models on a large scale. Tennessee, Ohio and Texas are currently implementing NIET's practices statewide, and hundreds of other partnerships are underway.

The National Institute for Excellence in Teaching is in the position to strengthen public/private partnerships and maximize the impact of TAP and the Educator Effectiveness Best Practices Center. Those of us who have worked tirelessly to improve K-12 education know that countless efforts have been made to improve the system. However, few have had the focus, scope and strength necessary to achieve measurable results and sustainability.TAP and NIET's educator effectiveness best practices are proof that educator-centric models can work.

NIET's initiatives are making a positive difference in the lives of more than 250,000 teachers and 2.5 million students every day. Teachers, administrators and students themselves are utilizing TAP and best practices to create the best possible environments to learn and grow. Schools that have faced the greatest educational challenges are now seeing dramatic gains. Tennessee alone achieved the largest growth on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in history. But we know that these crucial improvements cannot be accomplished alone and cannot happen overnight. Our support from educators, districts, communities and governments at the local, state and federal levels has helped us begin building a broader coalition with organizations, foundations and corporations. These partnerships are essential to implement the comprehensive initiatives necessary to benefit all students.

We encourage you to join us in this important and urgent cause. With such systems in place, there is real promise for the education profession to attract greater numbers of talented individuals to perform the most important job in our nation and indeed the world: equipping youth for the exciting challenges of the future. The next generation deserves this opportunity.

Lowell Milken

Founder, TAP™: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement
Chairman and Founder, National Institute for Excellence in Teaching