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Carter High School in Knox County, Tennessee, Receives $50,000 TAP Founder's Award

Prestigious honor created by Lowell Milken recognizes school for distinction in TAP System implementation

March 7, 2014

Los Angeles, CA—Lowell Milken, founder of TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement, today surprised faculty of Carter High School in Knox County Schools, Tennessee, with the prestigious TAP Founder's Award. The award, which includes a $50,000 prize, was presented before more than 1,200 educators and policy leaders at the 14th National TAP Conference in Los Angeles, California.

Funded by the Lowell Milken Family Foundation, the TAP Founder's Award is given annually to one school for exceptional efforts to implement and represent the principles of TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement. TAP is America's leading comprehensive educator effectiveness model that aligns career advancement, daily job-embedded professional development, rigorous teacher evaluation and accountability, and performance-based compensation. Principal Ryan Siebe accepted the award on the school's behalf.

"The staff at Carter High School represent a living example of what is not only possible, but probable, when you make teacher excellence the cornerstone of improving student achievement," said Lowell Milken. "I applaud Principal Ryan Siebe, the leaders and the entire faculty at Carter High for their dedication to TAP, and wish them every success as they continue their journey."

Since implementing TAP, Carter High School has focused on improving learning for its high-need student population by working as a team to deliver effective instruction in every classroom. Regular professional development sessions focus on student academic data and specific student needs; teacher leaders guide weekly professional development and provide individual coaching in classrooms, evaluations of teacher practice are followed by feedback and support for improvement, and a performance-based compensation system rewards educators for increased skill and student performance.

The sea change in teacher leadership and collaboration has made a marked difference inside and outside of the classroom.

"TAP works," said TAP Master Teacher Angie Messer, "Since implementing TAP, teachers are having academic conversations outside the classroom. We are seeing and feeling changes in our craft."

As a result, the school has helped students to achieve significantly more than a year's worth of academic growth for two consecutive years—scoring a value-added growth score of 5 on a scale of 1-5 when compared to similar schools in the state. This progress earned Carter High district APEX awards in 2012 and 2013. The school attracted broader attention when the Tennessee Department of Education, also in 2013, named Carter High a "Reward School" for its placement in the top 5% for growth in the state.

To staff, the reason is clear. "TAP is a very organized way to teach," explained TAP Mentor Teacher Jani Chollman. "You're teaching with a purpose and the results come very quickly."

The TAP Founder's Award recipients are selected without their knowledge by the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, which manages and supports TAP. The honor is based on distinction in the following areas: proficient implementation of TAP's four elements, student academic growth according to state or federal measures, and notable recognition as a center and resource of best practices.

The TAP Founder's Award yields benefits that will strengthen the individual school and support its teachers. This is done by means of prominent public recognition and by opportunities to substantively interact on issues of teacher effectiveness and student learning with leaders from government, business and academia.

Photos from the TAP Founder's Award presentation will be available for download at

The TAP Founder's Award profile video for Carter High School can be viewed at and on the TAP System's YouTube channel at

Initiatives of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching are improving the educational experience for more than 175,000 teachers and 2.4 million students. For more information on TAP or the 14th National TAP Conference in Los Angeles, California, visit


Jana Rausch
Senior Manager, Media and Public Affairs
(310) 570-4774