Staff reports
Lowery Intermediate School Principal Monica Hills accepts the TAP Ambassador Award from NIET President and CEO Dr. Gary Stark (left) and NIET Chairman and TAP Founder Lowell Milken (right)

Los Angeles, CA—Lowery Intermediate School in Ascension Parish Schools, Louisiana, was surprised with the TAP Ambassador Award, which comes with a financial prize of $5,000.  The annual award honors a TAP school that has gone beyond its campus to represent the principles of the TAP system and assist others in the state and region.  The Award was presented before 1,500 educators and policy leaders attending a special Saturday luncheon at the 11th National TAP Conference: Changing the Landscape for Educator Support and Evaluationin Los Angeles, California.  Lowery Intermediate School Principal Monica Hills accepted the award on behalf of the school.      

TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement is America’s leading education reform offering teachers multiple career paths, ongoing applied professional growth, instructionally focused accountability and performance-based compensation.  The comprehensive implementation of TAP is proven to improve teacher effectiveness and student achievement.

“I commend Principal Monica Hills and the entire Lowery Intermediate School faculty for its commitment to making TAP the driver for teacher effectiveness and student growth,” said Dr. Gary Stark, president and CEO of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET)—the organization that runs TAP and funds the TAP Ambassador Award.  “Their participation in NIET national training videos, hosting school visits, and presenting on Capitol Hill are strengthening education far beyond their own campus.”

In its third year of TAP, Lowery Intermediate School serves a student population with 93 percent eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.  Before TAP, the school held a state rating of “academically unacceptable” and needed a bold strategy to get teachers and students on the right path.  Lowery embarked on a planning year to learn the TAP system.

Hills hired a master and a mentor teacher, and teachers started collaborating to analyze student data and discuss needs.  By year end, Lowery increased its state School Performance Score (SPS) from 53.8 to 57.2 and officially joined TAP in the 2008-09 school year.  Over the next two years, its SPS jumped to 74, increasing its rating to “academic watch” and demonstrating “recognized academic growth” by state standards. What’s more, Lowery received a “value-added” student achievement score of “4,” signifying above average results compared to similar schools in Louisiana.  As a result, the school has attracted and retained high-quality teachers and continues to experience the most growth in the district.

Lowery has taken progress beyond its walls to communicate the power of TAP, hosting site visits for schools, policymakers and other educators interested in exploring the reform system.  Lowery’s leadership team has presented at state and national TAP trainings as well as participated in NIET-produced instructional videos.  In January 2011, Principal Hills participated in a briefing at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to release important lessons from TAP’s teacher evaluation system. 

“As a principal, I see how valuable it is to be able to accurately measure teacher effectiveness," Hills told policymakers, researchers and other education influencers in attendance. “Developing a team of master and mentor teachers to work with me to conduct evaluations and provide support for teachers to improve has enabled us to make significant improvements in student achievement."

Lowery Intermediate School joins Clinton Elementary School in Laurens County School District 56, South Carolina, and Rolling Hills Elementary School in Lancaster, Texas, as the only TAP Ambassador Award recipients this year.  The Louisiana Department of Education received the TAP Award of Distinction for its accomplishments and overall implementation of TAP.    

Introduced in 1999, TAP impacts more than 20,000 teachers and 200,000 students. 

For more information on TAP or the 11th National TAP Conference at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles, visit http://www.tapsystem.org.