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A Maryland State Department of Education Resource

The TAP-IT Process

Four teachers collaborate

TAP-IT Overview/Introduction

As accountability shifts from compliance to results, we need to ask ourselves:  “What do we need to do differently to ensure an increase in student learning?” In many cases, the answer to that question is: “We have to make changes to instructional delivery.” However, for instructional changes to occur with fidelity, we need to be able to:

  • Ensure that the supports needed by teachers to implement well are of high quality and consistently in place,
  • Ensure that the administrative environment at each level (e.g. building, district) is creating a hospitable environment (e.g. policies, resources, regulations) that facilitates implementation, and
  • Data and feedback loops are in place for improving systems alignment, action planning, problem-solving, and positive recognition.

The TAP-IT process expands the traditional Plan, Do, Study, Act improvement cycle. It is a coherent process that enables LSS staff to oversee an instructional change process from beginning to end, that is, from the problem identification/analysis stage, to the selection of an evidence-based solution to address the problem, implementation of the new initiative, and tracking of changes in student performance and adult practice. Key to the success of this process is the formation of a cross functional TEAM to guide the analysis, planning, implementation, and tracking processes.

You can hear about all of the TAP-IT steps – Team, Analyze, Plan, Implement, and Track – in individual podcasts found at………


The primary focus of the Team is to oversee and support the change process. Therefore, it is important to form a cross-functional team that represents all stakeholders affected by the anticipated changes. Improving student performance will probably involve changing practitioner practice. You want to be sure that your team includes the people who can facilitate the needed practitioner supports and hospitable environments (policies and resources) for implementation.

Finally, your team should take some time to set group norms, determine roles and responsibilities, and identify a group goal. This will enable the team to be high performing when they conduct the TAP-IT steps (Analyze, Plan, Implement, and Track).


There are two parts to the Analyze step. The first part is to identify student needs. The team can accomplish this by gathering and examining multiple sources of performance data.  With time sensitive data from the district’s data warehouse – SLO data, benchmark data, attendance data, early warning alerts, and discipline/suspension data – the team can identify which student need(s) to address through the LAFF grant.

But don’t stop there. Your second step is to determine the “root cause” of the need. Once your team has developed a problem statement, such as, “the performance gap in mathematics between special education and general education students is growing in our district”, your team can use a simple technique to get to its “root cause” – the 5 Whys.  Here is an example of 5 Whys.

Why is the gap increasing? Because many special needs students do not have access to the more rigorous CCR math standards. Why don’t they have access? Because our district is focused on placing special needs student in the least restrictive environment and general education teachers may not be using universal design (UDL) principles for instruction. Why aren’t general education teachers using UDL principles when designing instruction? Because UDL training was limited to an awareness session; there wasn’t any ongoing support provided to help teachers integrate UDL principles into their lessons. Why wasn’t there any ongoing support? Because district resources were not allocated. Why didn’t they allocate the resources needed for ongoing support? Because the district has a co-teaching program in place and assumes that special education teachers will use UDL principles to provide access.

Note that the team should examine additional sources of data to verify their answers to the 5 Whys. Additional data sources may be related to instructional management (curriculum, instruction, and assessment), professional development, and educator quality.


Once the team has identified the lack of ongoing support for general education teachers to integrate UDL principles into their lessons, as the “root cause” of their problem, they will need to select an evidence-based strategy to fix it.  Teams should be mindful that they will probably need to select at least two strategies in order to achieve their outcome – an evidence-based instructional strategy (student learning strategy) that increases access to CCR math, and an evidence-based adult learning strategy, such as communities of practice, that builds capacity to implement the student learning strategy?

While the selected strategy for improving access to CCR mathematics, the what, is using evidence-based classroom interventions such as using manipulatives when introducing a concept, providing illustrations when defining math vocabulary, drawing visual representations etc., the team will also have to identify another strategy for how the chosen intervention will be learned by the targeted teachers.

At this junction, the team should generate a theory of action – if general education teachers, with special needs students in their classrooms, implement evidence-based classroom interventions with fidelity then the performance gap in mathematics between special education and general education students will decrease. A theory of action will make it easier for the team to develop S.M.A.R.T. goals.

Teams should have at least two S.M.A.R.T. goals – one around implementation, the if clause in your theory of action, and one around student learning, the then clause. S.M.A.R.T. goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.

By June 30, 2016, 50% of elementary teachers teaching grades 3, 4, and 5, will implement evidence-based math interventions with 65% fidelity.

By June 30, 2016, the mathematics achievement gap in grades 3, 4, and 5 will decrease by 5% points.

Finally, the team develops an Implementation Action Plan which outlines the tasks, names of staff responsible for completing tasks, and timeline for completion.


Implementation is not an event. It is a mission-oriented process that takes 2-4 years involving multiple decisions, actions and corrections (SISEP). There are actually four stages of implementation – exploration, installation, initial implementation, and full implementation.

By the Implement step of the TAP-IT process, the team will have already engaged in actions related to two implementation stages – exploration during the Analyze phase of TAP-IT when they assessed needs, examined interventions, and assessed the fit of the intervention to their context and installation during the Plan phase when the team began to acquire resources for doing things aligned with the new evidence-based practice, prepare the organization by making sure that structural supports (funding streams, human resource strategies, policies and procedure development and reporting frameworks for expected outcomes) are in place, and selecting and planning for training staff in the new evidence-based practice. The outcome of the installation stage is an Implementation Action Plan.

During the initial implementation stage, the work begins for the new implementers (practitioners implementing the evidence-based intervention). It is during this stage that the support of the Leadership and the Implementation Team is critical since new challenges emerge from staff due to fear of change, inertia, and investment in the status quo (SISEP). This is a time to learn from mistakes and to develop system solutions, when appropriate, rather than allowing problems to re-emerge and re-occur (SISEP).

Once the new learning becomes integrated into local practices, policies, and procedures you will be in the full implementation stage. The evidence-based practice will become part of the school and district culture and improvements to student outcomes are experienced. To reach full implementation typically takes two to four years – depending on the complexity of the new practice and the size of the organization. During this stage it is important that regular assessment of fidelity to the intervention and monitoring of student learning takes place.


This step of TAP-IT is embedded in the full implementation stage of implementation. In implementation science it is aligned with a practice to policy feedback loop that is part of the Plan Do Study Act cycle. In TAP-IT team members meet monthly to track implementation. During these monthly meetings they receive updates from the point person overseeing implementation of the intervention at the classroom level. These updates provide information about implementation barriers and successes that enable adjustments to policy, structure, procedure, and practice. With these adjustments a more aligned and hospitable system can be developed for the intervention.

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