Teachers College partner school districts receive education awards


March 24, 2015

For their positive improvements in teacher advancement and student achievement, Avondale and Osborn Elementary School Districts were honored with TAP Districts of Distinction Awards at the 15th National TAP Conference in Los Angeles on March 14.

Both Phoenix-area school districts have been partnering with Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College in the Arizona Ready-for-Rigor Project (AZRfR), a five-year Teacher Incentive Fund federal grant that utilizes TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement to improve educator effectiveness in 58 high-need schools across the state. TAP District of Distinction winners Download Full Image

“The Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College is proud of the academic and educator accomplishments and national recognition of the Avondale and Osborn School Districts,” said Virginia McElyea, executive director of the AZRfR Project. “Both of these districts have shown tremendous progress through the tireless work and dedication of their staff from their leadership teams to the classroom teachers to the students themselves.”

“I congratulate all of this year's award recipients for their hard work and dedication to advancing educator effectiveness and student achievement growth in their communities,” said Gary Stark, president and chief executive officer of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET), which manages the TAP System. "Their success is exciting and demonstrates the extraordinary results that can be achieved when you place a high priority on developing highly effective teachers and principals."

Osborn Elementary School District has been participating in the Arizona Ready-for-Rigor Project since it began in 2010, and has been partnering with Arizona State University since 1998 when it hosted the first cohort of teacher candidates in a program that eventually became iTeachAZ. Osborn school district has increased the academic success of its five schools over the years, and in 2013-2014, became the only school district in the Phoenix area to have all of its schools earn an “A” or “B” rating by the Arizona Department of Education’s A-F Letter Grades.

“I was deeply honored to accept the 2015 District Award of Distinction at the National TAP Conference on behalf of the Osborn community,” said Osborn superintendent Patricia Tate. “NIET’s recognition of Osborn staff’s many years of hard work focused on teacher effectiveness and student achievement was unexpected, deeply appreciated and could never have been accomplished without the strong support of our governing board, parents, partners and community. We are profoundly grateful to ASU for inviting us to join the AZRfR Project and for their ongoing support of our successful implementation of the TAP System.”

Avondale Elementary School District, also an iTeachAZ district, joined the project for the 2011-1012 academic year and has adopted and rigorously implemented the program’s elements to improve educator quality: mentor teacher leadership positions and partnerships, regular professional development based on data-driven results, and routine observation and evaluation systems for teacher and administrator improvement. Through these actions, Avondale district has impacted its value-added growth (a measurement of student academic improvement) and been highlighted as a model by the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching to other TAP schools nationwide.

“It is a privilege to accept this award on behalf of our entire district,” said Avondale superintendent Betsy Hargrove. “TAP has allowed us to focus on teaching and learning in a new way. Our teachers work in teams to engage in research-based professional development, create goals for their own learning and are highly effective in the classroom. We are incredibly proud of our staff in Avondale and know that without their ongoing efforts, we would not be successful. Our longstanding relationship with ASU jump-started and supported our implementation of the TAP System, and we look forward to future collaborative efforts and even more success in the future.”

The two Arizona districts were among six honored with the TAP District of Distinction award; the other winners were from Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana and Texas. The honor also includes a $10,000 prize to be used toward the implementation of the TAP System. More details about the TAP District of Distinction Awards are available at NIET, which is involved with over 200,000 educators and 2.5 million students in its many educational initiatives.

ASU Gammage educational outreach celebrates 15 years


March 24, 2015

For 15 years, local theater/storytelling artist Fatimah Halim has worked with nearly 300 inmates through Journey Home, an arts residency program designed to enable incarcerated women to discover a personal sense of constructive identity through performance, visual arts, creative writing and storytelling.

Halim, of Life Paradigms Inc., conducts Journey Home in collaboration with ASU Gammage. women making signs Download Full Image

At 3 p.m., March 28, 25 incarcerated women (ages 21 to 55) will participate in the program's 15th annual public performance at Estrella Jail in Phoenix.

For six weeks prior to the public performance, the inmates meet weekly and go through training in movement, visual arts, creative writing and storytelling. The intent is to help them build personal skills and self-esteem, and demonstrate alternative methods to avert destructive behavior through the arts. The women then begin to see themselves as productive, creative people.

“The Journey Home program has changed my life," said Sandra*, a past participant in Journey Home. "I mentally transformed into the woman I wanted to become.”

This year’s theme is “Living By Design, Not by Default.” The theme reflects on the value of finding purpose and joy internally rather than being controlled by outside influences.

The team also includes director and choreographer Teniqua Broughton and mental health specialist Imani Muhammad.

The program originated in 2001 from dancer/choreographer Pat Graney’s national program, “Keeping the Faith” prison project. Since that time, ASU Gammage has sustained the event locally. The program has allowed the inmates to develop tools to make positive choices and encourages them to break the negative patterns in their lives.

“Journey Home has allowed these women to develop creative tools that can help them make positive choices, and encourages them to break the negative patterns that lead to incarceration," said Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director of ASU Gammage. "We are the only performing arts venue in the country doing work like this within the prison system; it goes back to our mission of connecting communities.”

The media is invited to witness the women’s final performance and to observe some of the six-week workshops. RSVP no later than March 26 to guarantee a spot by emailing Dana McGuinness at dana.mcguinness@asu.edu.

*Sandra's full name has been witheld for privacy.