Abraham Lincoln Elementary School in Perry Township, Indiana, Named 2018 TAP Founder’s Award Finalist

Santa Monica, Calif.—The National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) today announced that Perry Township’s Abraham Lincoln Elementary School is one of five finalists for the 2018 TAP Founder’s Award, NIET’s top school recognition. Created by NIET Chairman and TAP Founder Lowell Milken, the TAP Founder’s Award is given annually to one school for exceptional efforts to implement and represent the principles of the TAP System for Teacher and Student Advancement—resulting in improvements to educator effectiveness and student achievement growth.

The TAP System is America’s leading comprehensive educator effectiveness model that aligns teacher leadership, daily collaborative professional learning, educator evaluation and support, and opportunities for performance-based compensation. Launched in 1999, the TAP System, administered by NIET, has partnered with schools, districts, states and universities to ensure that all students have access to talented teachers.   

The TAP Founder’s Award comes with a $50,000 cash prize, funded by the Lowell Milken Family Foundation, to be used toward school improvement efforts. All five Award finalists will be honored at a luncheon on Friday, March 23, 2018, during the 18th Annual National TAP Conference in Washington, D.C., before 1,000 educators, policymakers, researchers and other influential leaders. The winner will be announced at the end of the luncheon. 

Each finalist will receive a plaque and $10,000. Abraham Lincoln joins Cross County Elementary Technology Academy in the Cross County School District, Arkansas; Mansfield High School in DeSoto Parish Schools, Louisiana; Slaton Junior High School in the Slaton Independent School District, Texas; and West Goshen Elementary School in Goshen Community Schools, Indiana.

Each finalist implements the TAP System by structuring school leadership teams of master and mentor teachers as well as administrators, to identify goals for student advancement and develop strategies to meet them. These teacher leaders guide weekly professional learning sessions based on individual teacher and student needs, field-test strategies with groups of students and coach fellow faculty.

Enhancing this support are an educator evaluation system and a compensation system that rewards educators for increased skill and student performance, and for taking on new leadership roles and responsibilities.

Inside Abraham Lincoln Elementary School

With a diverse student population, Abraham Lincoln Elementary School has maintained a state-designated A rating because of its focus on developing teacher talent and meeting the needs of students.  

Through the TAP System, the faculty has been able to come together as a team to address educational challenges, including large size, Title I status, language learning curve and a 20-30 percent student mobility rate. TAP’s targeted, daily professional learning and constant attention to data led staff to form a coherent vision of student success. According to Principal Whitney Wilkowski, the biggest shift has been in identifying and tracking what the school needs to do to move every student.  

Differentiating instruction is particularly essential for Lincoln’s teachers. New teachers receive wraparound support through personalized coaching by expert school-based teachers trained in the TAP System. 

“The TAP System allows us to meet individuals with their current pedagogical knowledge and challenges teacher growth in understanding poverty and mobility,” says Wilkowski. “These are key factors necessary for establishing a growth-oriented classroom environment, and designing and planning instruction with a priority need for differentiation.” 

Students respond positively to this approach. Each student comes from a different starting point, so working with data, teachers show students how they are progressing. Allowing the students to see their growth gets them excited about the improvement they achieve. “I grew by XX percent” is commonly used by students to characterize their progress. 

“We are proud of our teacher development in data analysis,” says Wilkowski. “We are excited to see our students own their data and make progress toward individual goal attainment each month.” 

The students’ success has also become a family affair at Lincoln. Families participate in math family night to understand what and how their children are learning. Students, themselves, drive these conversations. 

Once seen by the community as a challenge, Lincoln’s student population is now perceived as the school’s strength. Lincoln teachers host visits for other Indiana schools, and faculty members have met with state legislators as well as engaged in greater state policy discussions. The implementation of TAP at Lincoln and at neighboring Southport Elementary School propelled Perry Township Schools to implement NIET’s educator effectiveness best practices districtwide.  

“Our advocacy for the TAP System is ongoing and limitless, but best advertised by our results,” adds Wilkowski. 

“I commend Principal Wilkowski and the staff of Abraham Lincoln Elementary for their dedication to moving every child,” says Lowell Milken. “Their achievements are reflected in not only their academic gains, but also in their pride as members of this vibrant school community.”

About Brian Scott

I play on the radio from 7 am -1 pm weekdays on 98.9 WYRZ and WYRZ.org. Follow me on twitter @WYRZBrianScott or e-mail me at brian@wyrz.org.

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