Mansfield High School in DeSoto Parish, Louisiana, Named 2018 TAP Founder's Award Finalist

March 6, 2018

Mansfield High School in DeSoto Parish, Louisiana, Named 2018 TAP Founder's Award Finalist

School among five schools nationwide under consideration for prestigious honor and $50,000 cash prize

Santa Monica, Calif.—The National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) today announced that DeSoto Parish's Mansfield High School is one of the five finalists for the 2018 TAP Founder's Award, NIET's top school recognition. Created by NIET Chairman and TAP Founder Lowell Milken, the TAP Founder's Award is given annually to one school for exceptional efforts to implement and represent the principles of the TAP System for Teacher and Student Advancement—resulting in improvements to educator effectiveness and student achievement growth.

The TAP System is America's leading comprehensive educator effectiveness model that connects teacher leadership, daily collaborative professional learning, educator evaluation and support, and opportunities for performance-based compensation. Launched in 1999, the TAP System, as administered through NIET, has partnered with schools, districts, states and universities to ensure that all students have access to talented teachers.

The TAP Founder's Award comes with a $50,000 prize, funded by the Lowell Milken Family Foundation, to be used toward school improvement efforts. All five Award finalists will be honored at a luncheon on Friday, March 23, 2018, during the 18th Annual National TAP Conference in Washington D.C., before 1,000 educators, policymakers, researchers and other influential leaders. The winner will be announced at the end of the luncheon.

Each finalist will receive a plaque and $10,000. Mansfield High joins Abraham Lincoln Elementary School in Perry Township Schools, Indiana; Cross County Elementary Technology Academy in the Cross County School District, Arkansas; Slaton Junior High School in the Slaton Independent School District, Texas; and West Goshen Elementary School in Goshen Community Schools, Indiana.

Each finalist implements the TAP System by structuring school leadership teams of master and mentor (or lead) teachers as well as administrators, to identify educational targets and develop strategies to meet them. These teacher leaders guide weekly professional learning based on individual teacher and student needs, field-test strategies with groups of students, and coach fellow faculty.

Enhancing this support are an educator evaluation system and a compensation system that rewards educators for increased skill and student performance, and for taking on new leadership roles and responsibilities.

Inside Mansfield High School

Mansfield High School has experienced historic educational achievement with the implementation of the TAP System, moving from a D to an A-rated school. According to Principal Toras Hill, equally important to the school's progress is the staff's process: Faculty focuses on developing a growth mindset for individual students and teachers alike that has been essential to reaching benchmarks.

This process starts with goal-setting, utilizing TAP's structure and allocation of time to identify school goals based on the assessment of student data. TAP's professional learning sessions or "clusters" then provide time to design assessments aligned to teaching standards, critically analyze data along the way and adjust strategies as needed.

For example, in math, staff set out to improve proficiency on the end-of-course state Algebra I exam. "We implemented strategies and activities where students focused on not only answering questions, but improving their solutions," explains Amanda LaFollette, who has ascended from a career to mentor to master teacher during her tenure at Mansfield High. "This cluster work paid off. Our Algebra I proficiency level in 2016-17 was 73 percent, which constituted a 21 percent improvement and exceeded our goal by 11 percent."

Students are continually motivated to succeed through the development of their own goals and regular project check-ins by teachers. Students helping to set their own goals gives them a sense of ownership of their progress and achievements, says Hill.

All of these elements have led to a significant culture change at the school. Students have become invested in their own success. "Success is now the expected norm," says Lead Teacher Rick McDonald. "Academic excellence is an anticipated outcome."

"Principal Hill says it best: Mansfield High has fostered a 'culture of college preparation,'" says Lowell Milken. "Teachers are united in propelling students to the next level—in academics, self-reflection and their outlook on the future. I am confident they will reach even greater heights."

Since implementing the TAP System as the district's instructional model during the 2008-09 school year, DeSoto Parish Schools' growth has soared. In 2010, the district, located just south of Shreveport, ranked #45 out of Louisiana's 70+ districts; now it's #9. The increased educator effectiveness and student learning led to other impressive achievements: the largest ACT growth in the state, the top Louisiana district for improving special education outcomes and the fifth-largest growth levels in the state, per July 2017 LEAP scores.


TAP Founder's Award recipients are selected without their knowledge by NIET, which manages and supports the TAP System. The honor is based on distinction in the following areas: proficient implementation of TAP's four core 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 educator effectiveness and student learning with leaders from government, business and academia.

Photos from the TAP Founder's Award finalists' recognition luncheon on March 23 will be available for download at

For interviews with the TAP Founder's Award finalists during the conference or to attend, contact Jana Rausch at or (310) 435-9259. For more information, visit Follow conference news on Facebook at NIETteach and Twitter @NIETteach or via #tapcon18.

Based on the knowledge and experience gained from two decades of on-the-ground implementation with TAP, combined with the growing demand for proven reforms in teacher and principal effectiveness, NIET supports schools, districts, universities and states with educator evaluation training, teacher leader certification modules linked to learning platforms and human capital management systems as well as tools and resources for educator preparation.