Dr. McCormick came to Goshen on Tuesday for a meeting at Goshen College for Elkhart County educators on the U.S. Department of Education’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Prior to the meeting, Dr. McCormick visited Goshen Schools to sit in on a TAP Leadership Team (TLT) meeting at Model Elementary and to visit with central office staff.
In the TLT meeting, Dr. McCormick observed the conversation between Model principal Lynne Peters and the Model master and mentor teachers. They were looking at data, and asking themselves how they could improve and move students forward. As they looked at percentages, they realized that in one area they were very close, but to them it still wasn’t enough. “We want everyone, we want that last 5% to succeed too.”
This is the first year that Model has implemented the New Tech curriculum in their school, for just three of the grades. Next year, there will be full implementation of the program, which uses project-based learning (PBL). They noted that New Tech is a great way to teach, but they were examining ways to combine it with the TAP “stuff” that they have learned over the last few years. “We don’t want to lose the TAP stuff we have learned because it has helped our students and has helped us to become much better teachers.” They discussed how the TAP and PBL languages could work together, and then laughed because they are starting to hear the New Tech language come back to them from students with phrases like “failing forward”.
In conversation with Dr. McCormick, the superintendents explained the TAP process, and how it has helped to improve the corporation from a state-appointed “D” score to a “C”, and now to a “B” score for the last two years. They shared that the principals lead the TLT meetings, giving them an opportunity to lead and teach their staff, and then the master teacher(s) in each building lead the weekly cluster (professional development) meetings with staff.
Dr. McCormick asked how new teachers get trained in the TAP system, and the superintendents said that all new teachers start the year with “new teacher days” at central office, but that the building master teachers typically meet with new teachers to give them extra training, to talk about questions they may have, and to offer support.
Dr. Woodworth stated that through TAP, teachers have more ownership of their professional development and increased opportunities for leadership in the corporation. They reportedly like working closely together and sharing ideas through professional development. Considering the increased observations and professional development that are inherent in TAP, Dr. McCormick asked how the superintendents get feedback from teachers about how they feel about TAP. The superintendents said that there are several surveys that the teachers take at the end of each year that provide data to gauge teachers’ feelings and attitudes toward several factors including the career pathways, professional development, and collegiality.
Dr. McCormick asked the superintendents about budgetary concerns for the school corporation, and because of the costs associated with TAP, how it might be sustained. Currently, there are some very real concerns for next year’s budget. However, Dr. Woodworth stated that it is not likely that GCS would give up TAP because of the effectiveness of the program and how it has contributed to student improvement and teacher effectiveness in the corporation. She added “We apply for any grants that we can, and we might just have to get creative.”
The conversation finished with some consideration of current bills being proposed by state legislators, and how Dr. McCormick is feeling about things after a few months in office. She stated that she is “very glad to have a good team of people” around her.
Dr. McCormick stated she was very impressed with Goshen schools, and the results being achieved by the students and staff. She said that the state is looking at how to develop leaders in education, but that it looks like Goshen already has some good ideas about school improvement and developing leadership in their professional staff.
It was Goshen’s honor to host Dr. McCormick for the afternoon, and we hope that it will not be long before she returns to visit our schools to see more of the wonderful things happening for our students and staff.