Several Port Allen schools were recently extended national accolades for their work in the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP), including a distinctive award given to Port Allen Middle School.
During the National TAP Conference, held in Los Angeles, Calif., March 6-9, Port Allen elementary, middle and high schools were recognized for their achievements involving the TAP program as well as their participation in sessions and videos featured during the conference.
“We’ve got some special stuff going on here,” said West Baton Rouge Schools Superintendent David Corona during the system’s school board meeting Wednesday, March 19.
Corona said, during the board meeting, that he had received an e-mail from Louisiana Department of Education Network Three Support Coach Monique Wild, saying that she was extremely proud of how well Port Allen’s schools represented the parish and state on the national level.
“Port Allen is on the national stage in more ways than one, and I know how proud you all must be,” Wild wrote to Corona – in the e-mail, which was acquired by the West Side Journal. “ALL of the Port Allen schools made an impressive show at the conference—I’m still hearing the buzz about the wonderful work that is happening in West Baton Rouge.”
On the forefront of the accolades was the TAP Ambassador Award, an honor bestowed upon four schools nationwide, which was awarded to Port Allen Middle School in recognition of the school’s ability to go “beyond their buildings to represent the principles of TAP.”
The award was presented by the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) to PAMS, along with three other schools, before over 1,200 educators and policy leaders during a special Saturday luncheon at the conference.
"I commend the TAP Ambassador Award recipients for opening their doors to campuses across their states and even the nation," said Dr. Gary Stark, president and chief executive officer of NIET. "Seeing TAP in action and learning from others are highly beneficial and contribute to our growth."
John Arrasmith, PAMS Principal, said that he was shocked to hear his school’s name called to receive such an award.
“This award is a culmination of all the hard work that our staff has done implementing TAP,” Arrasmith said. “I remember my first year as an assistant principal, we scored a 78.9 on our school performance score. We felt like we needed to bring in something that would assist our teachers with becoming better… We brought in TAP, and I couldn’t imagine having a school without it now. It’s such a tremendous tool to assist our teachers and assist our students.”
He said that the Ambassador Award, which came with a plaque and a check for $5,000, was given to PAMS because of the school’s achievements during the two years they have been involved with TAP.
Arrasmith, who is in his first year as principal of the school after former principal Dr. Jonathan Szymanski was hired as principal at his Texas alma mater, Brazos High School, said that he is ecstatic about the leaps his students have made throughout the years, especially the last couple of years through TAP.
He said that in his 11 years at PAMS, the period in which he noticed the most educational growth in the students is when the school became involved in TAP
“This year it’s been an honor to take the reins over and to continue our TAP process at Port Allen Middle School,” said Arrasmith. “It’s a lot of hard work, but we’re willing to put forth that work in order to see our students be successful.”
In her letter to Corona, Wild noted that Port Allen Elementary was also worthy of commendation for their work during the national TAP conference.
According to Wild, administrative personnel from PAES conducted a leadership meeting in front of conference participants.
“They did what they always do, which was QUITE IMPRESSIVE to all who watched them in action,” Wild said, adding that PAES Principal Michelle Kauffman created a video for a session on “coaching of a cluster leader,” which garnered much attention from participants. “(Kauffman) was sought out by many for advice following her comments as a panelist at another session.”
Annette Mire, WBR Associate Superintendent of Human and Professional Development, who also attended the conference in Los Angeles, said that even a day after their demonstration, many were talking about how advanced the staff of PAES was.
“I was in a session with superintendents from around the country, and there was a superintendent from somewhere in northern California,” Mire told the school board during their meeting Wednesday evening. “He said when he gets back, he wants to get his team to be as advanced as that Port Allen Elementary in Louisiana, because he had seen things that they weren’t anywhere near in California.”
Kauffman said that she’s just excited that her school was given the opportunity to help other TAP schools by performing such a session to show how cluster meetings are done at her school.
“It was a great honor to even be asked to do something that had never been done before,” Kauffman said. “I’m just so excited about this team and what we do everyday. Without them we wouldn’t be on the national spotlight. It’s their input and what they see and their day-to-day that makes it work.”
Wild praised PAES for their day-to-day, agreeing that it does work.
“The daily attention to detail, the desire to be better every day, and the willingness to share what they have learned are the characteristics that led to the recognition every school received,” Wild said, adding that Port Allen schools are now “on the national map.” “I’m excited for all of you, but not surprised. This is simply verification of what I already know to be true of everyone in the WBR system—you consistently work with fidelity to good practices to make every day meaningful for students.”
Wild also mentioned Port Allen High School in her e-mail address to Corona, saying the high school was also in the spotlight nationally.
She said that Port Allen High School was featured in video footage shared in high school sessions.
“Many participants in the session requested the video because they want to be able to ‘do what those ladies do,’” Wild wrote. “The willingness to put their process on the screen for analysis was brave indeed.”
Wild noted that throughout the conference, that participants from other school districts throughout the country sought out people from Port Allen for their ideas and insight.
“Once your educators shared their thoughts, they became ‘ideological hot commodities.’ This is probably the most impressive phenomenon of all the wonderful recognition you all received,” Wild wrote to Corona. “The TAP conference is attended by the best and brightest from across the country—and they sought out your educators for advice. If that is not proof that the WBR folks deserve all the recognition they received, I don’t know what is.”
TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement is America's leading comprehensive educator effectiveness model that aligns career advancement, professional development, educator evaluation and performance-based compensation. For more than a decade, TAP has worked to improve teacher effectiveness and student achievement in high-need urban, rural and suburban schools and districts across the country. It is managed and supported by NIET.
For more information on TAP or the 14th National TAP Conference in Los Angeles, California, visit http://www.tapsystem.org.