Tapp Middle School (2023)
- Number of Students: 886
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 68%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 9%
- Percent of Special Education: 15%
- White: 7.11%
- Black: 59.03%
- Hispanic: 27.31%
- Asian: 0.79%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 0%
- Multiracial: 5.76%
- Other: 0%
Tapp Middle School is in Powder Springs, Georgia, a suburb located 30 minutes northwest of Atlanta, Georgia. Tapp is one of the 112 schools in the Cobb County School System, which is the 2nd largest school system in the state of Georgia. We are a school that receives Title I funds with 70% of our students being classified as economically disadvantaged. Our demographic makeup includes 59% Black, 27% Hispanic, 7% White, and 6% Multiracial, and 1% Asian. Also, our transiency rate is 23%. Though we face many challenges and obstacles daily, the staff has bought into the school’s vision to be an innovative and impactful place of learning where ALL students succeed. They also live our daily mission of Learning, Collaborating, Getting Results. Even though the past four years have been turbulent and filled with up and downs due to the pandemic, Tapp has been able to see some bright spots in our students’ academic achievement and been able to maintain a healthy and striving Professional Learning Community (PLC).
Tapp’s PLC journey started the 2019-2020 school year when Cobb County adopted the PLC framework as their primary instructional framework. Before then, Tapp had a limited focus on learning, collaboration, and getting results. If results happened, they were unintentional, and our supports did not have a cohesive focus. Instructional strategies were sporadic and did not have a connection to the larger goals of the school and/or District. Also, teachers worked in isolation and discussing data was not a norm. Overall, teachers worked hard, but they barely saw the fruits of their labor or their direct impact on student achievement.
Subsequently, as the District embarked on its PLC journey, a new principal was hired to lead Tapp. His background was in school improvement, and he had some training in implementing PLC's. He had spent some time in another District and had been trained in the PLC model which allowed him to have a full understanding of the process. He quickly established administrators as instructional leaders and began the work to become a model PLC.
The first order of business was to create a Guiding Coalition. After all, if you cannot convince a small number of people of your merits, how can you convince an entire staff? The Guiding Coalition went right to work and developed the school’s Vision, Mission, Collective Commitments, and Core Values. This step was instrumental in getting the staff to see the Guiding Coalition not just as teacher peers but as the leaders needed to steer the school to greatness.
Learning, Collaborating, Getting Results
To be an innovative and impactful place of learning where ALL students SUCCEED!
We are committed to continuing to grow as professionals in order to positively impact student achievement.
We are committed to being intentional in providing a culturally responsive and respectful environment.
We are committed to the well-being and safety of all stakeholders.
We are committed to building a sense of community through collaboration among all stakeholders.
We are committed to the belief that ALL students can achieve success by providing a rigorous environment where all students’ needs are met, so they can achieve their personal best.
After developing our Collective Commitments, the Guiding Coalition revamped the school’s collaboration schedule. We established Tuesdays and Thursdays as our main collaboration days. Tuesdays became Subject Area Collaboration (SAC) and Thursdays became Grade Level Collaboration (GLC). We also establish a monthly vertical department meeting, monthly PL day, monthly Faculty collaboration, and monthly Team collaboration. Also, the Guiding Coalition established our collaboration protocols and began to move forward with sharing them with the entire staff. The staff realized the need for a structured instructional framework and a need to focus on teaching and learning.
Our collaboration protocols were centered around the four questions:
1. What do students need to know and be able to do?
2. How will we know when students have learned it?
3. What do we do when students haven't learned it?
4. What will we when students already know it?
During the 2020-2021 school year, much of the PLC work was put on hold due to the pandemic. During this time, students had the option to attend school virtually or in-person, and they did not start school until October instead of August. Also, all meetings had to be virtual. Much of this school year focused on “surviving” and adopting our practices to fit our new school structure. However, we still maintained many of our instructional processes and the integrity of the Guiding Coalition.
Things returned to “normal” during the 2021-22 school year, and we went back to work! During the summer before the 2021-22 school year, we had collaboration days where teachers came in to plan together, and we took the time to establish Question #1. We selected our Essential Standards using the R.E.A.L. (readiness, endurance, assessment, and leverage) method and unpacked them to create our Learning Targets for each subject area. We also created our Student Standard Trackers for each subject area based on the Learning Targets. Lastly, we created our unit pacing guides, focused vocabulary, and unit mastery targets. This summer collaboration time allowed us to establish a guaranteed and viable curriculum for all students before the school year even started.
During the Summer after the 2021-22 school year, we focused on Question #2; aligning our assessments to our Essential Standards and Learning Targets. We also established our assessment cycle/calendar for each unit using a backwards design mentality. Our teacher teams start each unit by creating their Common Summative Assessments (CSA) and use it to create their Common Formative Assessments (CFA). We also created our data analysis protocol and data tracking measures.
Next, it was time to develop our Tiered Systems of Support addressing Questions #3 and #4. We established Targeted Instructional Groups for Enrichment and Remediation Days (TIGER) Days. TIGER Days are implemented after every common assessment. We also established our biweekly intervention block called TIGER Time. Math, English, and Reading teachers used data to create their support groups for students. Science, Social Studies, and Connection teachers created enrichment groups that also met during this time. TIGER Time activities are based on the Essential learning targets for the current unit. We also redesigned our Math Support and ELA support classes. Our math support class focused on current standards and was aligned to what students are doing in their grade level Math class. We did the same for our ELA support classes. We also added an intensive Reading class for each grade level for our lowest readers. Lastly, we provide optional morning Help Sessions and after-school tutoring as a tier 3 support.
Data and SMART Goals are also a major focus of our processes. Our teacher teams use the Reading Inventory (RI), Math Inventory (MI), CommonLit Benchmarks, District-created Interim assessments, CFA, and CSA to guide their instruction. The RI and MI assessments are given 3 times a year (Fall, Winter, and Spring) and interim assessments are given at the end of each unit. RI and MI data is used to create TIGER Time groups and allows our teacher teams to intervene properly.
While we are now in our fourth year, this is just the second year of consecutive implementation of our PLC practices, and we are committed to putting all of these educational pieces together. We are consistently focusing on Professional Development and providing training for our teacher teams. We are also making sure we are being consistent in our processes and ensuring regular and timely implementation across the building. We are also realigning our grading practices to fit the PLC process. The process of continuous collaboration has created stronger teacher leaders, and we will continue using the PLC process as we fulfill our commitments to our students, parents, and staff.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
Student learning is monitored by our teacher teams through the implementation of the four questions. At the start of each unit, teacher teams develop their Common Summative Assessment (CSA) and essential learning targets. The essential learning targets are created from the unit standards and used to create the unit pacing guide. Next, teacher teams determine the formative assignments and assessments that are tied to each learning target and share that information with students and parents. These learning activities work to ultimately prepare students for the CSA.
All common assessments are required to be input into Cobb Teaching and Learning System (CTLS) Assess. This allows teacher teams to analyze the data in real time and assign interventions as needed. Once the common assessment is completed, teacher teams are required to meet to analyze the data using our common assessment protocol. Since the assessment is in CTLS, it allows our teacher teams to see students’ standard performance, common missed questions, and subgroup performance. Teachers also use the data to determine students’ academic needs and their TIGER Day activities. TIGER Day activities include accelerated interventions and extension activities that reinforce learning goals and targets. During the TIGER Day time, the activities are implemented as stations, small group direct instruction, and self-paced activities.
Also, the data from the assessments are used to inform our TIGER Time activities and support class targets. By developing common learning targets, common learning activities, common formative assessments, analyzing assessment data, providing timely feedback to students, students tracking their learning, and providing students differentiated activities based on their assessment performance, we can ensure that all students are guaranteed a viable curriculum and all students can be successful on essential standards.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
Tapp has a tiered approach to systems of support through our Response to Interventions (RTI) Framework. First, we defined our Tier 1 universal practices. It is important for our students to experience consistent instructional expectations as they travel from class to class. We have prioritized our standards in all subject areas, give common assessments, and assure that all students participate in some form of TIGER Time, all students take a daily reading class, all students can participate in our morning help sessions, and essential learning targets are used to planned learning tasks. Being an Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) school, all students participate in our regular goal setting and monitoring process and utilize universal Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization, and Rigor (WICOR) strategies across the school. We also are a Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) school and have universal behavior expectations for students to follow that encourage and reward positive behavior.
Our Tier 2 and Tier 3 supports are only available to students not reading, writing, or doing math on grade level. We also provide Tier 2 and Tier 3 behavior supports based on students’ disicpline referrals. In addition, we have a Tier 2 and Tier 3 Math support class and use RI and MI scores to place students in our support classes or assign supports as needed. In the future, we want to become more proactive and leverage instructional technology to its fullest. We plan to create support modules that will be adaptive and tied to our essential standards.
Lastly, we structured our literacy framework to improve our students’ literacy skills. The Tapp Middle School Literacy Department is comprised of two distinct courses, English/Language Arts (ELA) and Reading, that complement and support one another with a variety of resources and learning activities. Within each course, students acquire necessary skills and master necessary standards as they seek to attain overall literacy proficiency.
Our ELA teachers use the SpringBoard textbook and curriculum provided by the Cobb County School District as the cornerstone of instruction. This resource gives students ample stories, poems, and non-fiction articles to analyze and study. ELA teachers augment SpringBoard with novel studies that align with their grade-level’s standards and students’ interests.
Writing instruction is key to helping students perform on-grade level, and Tapp MS uses a program called MIWrite to support writing across the curriculum. Teachers determine the writing topics using either their own articles and writing prompts or choosing one from the MIWrite library. MIWrite provides students with instant feedback on six writing traits and allows students to rewrite and resubmit essays and constructed responses until they are satisfied with their final product. Along with the feedback, MIWrite gives students lessons and tips on how to improve their writing skills and allows for peer review as well as pre-writing activities. While nearly all subject areas at Tapp (including PE) have made use of this beneficial program, the ELA teachers use it with the most frequency.
In our Reading classes, the primary instructional vehicle is an online literature program called CommonLit. CommonLit is an award-winning literacy program that provides a comprehensive curriculum complete with benchmark assessments and standards-based data that teachers utilize for determining students’ growth and needed support. The stories and poems are high interest for students, and each unit has a theme that they can relate to and learn from. Students write anything from short-answer comprehension questions to full-length essays based on the readings in CommonLit.
For our Tier 2 Reading Intervention Classes, Tapp is using a program called PowerUp to help students master their grade level’s reading standards. Each student is placed in a reading level based on their pre-assessment, and PowerUp provides appropriate instruction in three key areas, Word Study, Grammar, and Comprehension. Students work independently as well as with the teacher in small groups based on performance feedback from the program. Additional support is provided with practice exercises and reinforcement via targeted skill builders that are assigned based on student performance.
Each year one of the highlights for our Literacy Department is the annual #TappIntoReading literacy celebration. Each grade has a different book to read, and every student is given their own autographed copy of the novel that features either social studies or STEM standards. The Reading teachers lead #TappIntoReading by doing a novel study in those classes; however, ELA teachers support #TappIntoReading by reading articles aligned with the subject, writing character studies and additional chapters, and discussing the books in those classes as well. Other subject areas join with such activities as creating book covers in Art class, filming scenes in Broadcasting class, writing beats in Technology, and doing math problems centered around the book in Math. The culminating event for #TappIntoReading is a visit from each books’ author where students get to hear first-hand about the writing process as well as ask their own questions about the novels or writing in general.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
To build teacher capacity, it is imperative that all teachers have a clear understanding of our collaborative protocols, expectations, and practices. At the beginning of each school year, our principal provides professional learning to our teachers regarding our current PLC model and ensures teachers can implement the process with fidelity. Our teachers meet every Tuesday with their collaborative team to analyze common assessment data, common learning activities and their outcomes as well as to identify interventions and acceleration strategies that will improve student achievement. The backwards design model is used to develop common assessments that are aligned to state standards. Teachers then create essential learning targets and identify learning activities through common lesson plans. Our administrators are also present in PLC's and serve as instructional leaders to help guide data discussions and provide frequent, consistent lesson plan feedback.
In addition to our subject PLC's, our teachers meet every Thursday as a grade level. Each meeting is themed as follows: 1st RTI, 2nd STEM, 3rd AVID, 4th PBIS. During the RTI meeting, teachers discuss students who are not responding to Tier 1 instruction and share interventions put in place to support students. Our counselors are also a part of this critical discussion and offer another layer of support. The second Thursday of the month, teachers collaborate to provide cross-curricular STEM experiences using the essential learning targets developed within the subject are PLC's. Teachers also come together the following week and are introduced to an AVID strategy to use with students. This is often coupled with a piece of literature and discussion about implementation. Lastly, at the end of the month, our teachers collaborate to analyze discipline data and discuss students who need additional support addressing behavior concerns. Our PBIS collaborative team provides teachers with tools and resources to use to gain desired behavioral outcomes that have a positive impact on student learning.
A key component in building teacher capacity is also building teacher self-efficacy. This past year, teachers engaged in professional learning to develop their skills in creating common assessments and high quality learning targets that are aligned to standards and reflect high expectations for student learning. Our district also provided a series of professional learning opportunities for teachers to implement interdisciplinary STEM-based learning experiences.
Another opportunity to build teacher capacity is facilitated through our Guiding Coalition. This team is a collective representation of our school consisting of 19 members. Administration works closely with the coalition to ensure they are leaders in the collaborative process and provide resources and support for their work. Department coordinators within the team conduct classroom walks with administration to observe instruction, provide feedback, and identify areas of improvement for student learning. As a result, this feedback is used to inform collaborative discussion and planning and provide additional support for their colleagues.
Achievement Data Files
Additional Achievement Data
Due to the pandemic, the past three years have been quite the journey and focusing on increasing student achievement has been most difficult to maintain. Our data sets include our local school universal assessments, the Reading Inventory (RI) and Math Inventory (MI), and our State assessment, the Georgia Milestones.
The 2018-2019 school year was the pre-pandemic year. In 2019-2020, face-to-face instruction ended in March of 2020, and we switched to full virtual learning overnight. During this time, only about 10% of our students participated in class virtually since grades and attendance were not being counted. During the 2020-2021 school year, students had the option to attend school virtually or face-to-face. Tapp only had about 40% of its students attend school face-to-face. Also, all local and state assessments were optional during the 2020-2021 school year. Only about 40% of our students participated in the GA Milestones, RI and MI during the 2020-2021 school year. The 2021-2022 school year was a normal school year structurally, but the learning loss caused by the pandemic was tremendous, particularly in Mathematics. The 2022-2023 school year is also a normal year structurally, but we are still dealing with significant learning loss. However, you can see we are making significant gains yearly due to our implementation of the PLC process.
Students take the RI and MI three times a year; Fall (August/September), Winter (December/January), and Spring (April/May). The RI and MI are universal assessments that place the students in one of four categories: Below Basic, Basic, Proficient, and Distinguished. The attached local school data shows a comparison between the proficiency percentages for the 1st assessment, usually the Fall RI and MI and the last assessment, usually the Spring RI and MI for each year. It measures the average growth between both assessments. Students have not taken the Spring RI and MI for the 2022-2023 school year.
The second data set shows our proficiency rates on the Georgia Milestones which is our State assessment. The Georgia Milestones also places the students in one of four categories: Beginning Learner, Developing Learner, Proficient Learner, and Distinguished Learner. The attached data set compares Tapp’s proficiency rates to the State’s proficiency rates. Students in 6th and 7th grades only take the Math and ELA portions of the assessment. Students in 8th grade take Math, ELA, Science, and Social Studies. Lastly, students start taking the GA Milestones in April of each school year.
Title I- Beating the Odds School