Slaton High School Named 2020 NIET Founder’s Award Finalist, Receives $10,000

March 3, 2020

Slaton High School Named 2020 NIET Founder’s Award Finalist, Receives $10,000

Texas school among five nationwide in running for prestigious honor and $50,000 grand prize

The National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) announced today that Slaton High School in Slaton, Texas, will receive $10,000 as a finalist for the NIET Founder's Award. The school is among five across the country under consideration for the $50,000 grand prize, which will be announced later in 2020.

"Slaton High School has modeled the spirit of collaboration and student-centered practice," NIET Chairman and Founder Lowell Milken said. "Slaton High's focus on providing meaningful, daily support for educators – both those who are new to the school and longtime veterans – has resulted in student achievement gains and built the foundation for sustainability."

NIET has a 20-year history of working alongside more than 8,500 schools, districts, states, and universities to ensure that all students have effective educators. NIET's partner schools have shown success by both outperforming similar schools and having greater teacher retention. The Founder's Award was created by NIET Chairman and Founder Lowell Milken to honor one school annually for exceptional implementation of NIET's principles to build educator excellence and advance student success.

"Slaton High School exhibits how far students and teachers can go when they receive the coaching and support they need, and Slaton's grow-your-own approach is a model for the country," said NIET CEO Dr. Candice McQueen. "We are looking forward to seeing how they continue to build on the growth they have shown so far and take their implementation of the TAP System to the next level."

Founder's Award recipients are selected by NIET based on their efforts to make instructional excellence the cornerstone of school improvement; plan for regular professional learning focused on daily needs of teachers and students; create a culture of collaboration and reflection; and leverage teacher leaders and administrators to drive student growth. Through partnering with NIET, Slaton High has created a culture in which teachers are motivated to grow together in their practice, eliminating feelings of isolation and providing more opportunities for feedback, and educators are actively identified for leadership opportunities. Slaton's district partnership with nearby Texas Tech and intentional collaboration across its schools have allowed it to grow its own pipeline of leadership and attract new teachers, including at the high school.  

What Sets Slaton Apart

Slaton Independent School District (ISD) is a rural district located in northwest Texas, near Lubbock, and its focus over the past decade on educator talent across its four schools has been a game changer for the community. Slaton High School teachers and leaders work together as a cohesive and communicative unit with an unapologetic focus on supporting student growth and achievement. Since starting full implementation of the NIET TAP System for Teacher and Student Advancement in 2018-19, Slaton High School has been increasingly attractive to new educators, including those who found teaching as a second career, and TAP has helped veteran teachers deepen their practice and grow into leadership through the additional coaching and feedback loops.

"Teachers know there are always people to collaborate with, support them in the classroom, and coach them in their instructional strategies," said Principal Tiffany Potts. "Each person brings a strength to the table, and we are able to have real, vulnerable, tough conversations about our strengths and weaknesses as educators."

Over the past year, Slaton High School has seen improved performance on state exams, improved state accountability ratings, and expanded the number of students leaving Slaton High School with industry-based certifications and college credit hours. Slaton High received a state designation for outstanding academic growth in 2019, which put them in the top 25% across similar campuses. Teachers have started teaming up to analyze assessment data and develop plans to target support for students who repeatedly fail, helping students to take ownership over their learning. This tailored support alongside small-group instruction geared toward specific needs has helped to steadily increase scores, and as a result, several high school seniors were able to achieve the scores they needed to graduate. This is "proof that the TAP model, implemented with fidelity, works," said Principal Potts.

Slaton High School joins fellow NIET Founder's Award finalists Chinle Elementary School (Chinle Unified School District, Arizona); Desert View Elementary School (Gadsden Elementary School District #32, Arizona); Duplessis Primary School (Ascension Public Schools, Louisiana); and Slaughter Elementary School (East Feliciana Public Schools, Louisiana).

For graphs and images of Slaton High School, visit the NIET newsroom. For interviews, please contact Jana Rausch at or (310) 435-9259. For more information, visit Follow conference news – including the Founder's Award – on Facebook and Twitter @NIETteach or via #NIET2020.