TAF was started by Trish Millines Dziko, a former Microsoftie. (Editor's note: Dziko is also a Washington State Charter Commissioner and one the best voices in that group.)
While at Microsoft, she was a member of the group that organized the first company-sponsored diversity organization, Blacks At Microsoft (BAM). But over time, she began looking to the tech pipeline and was increasingly concerned about the lack of opportunities for kids from racial minorities.What did she start with the Technology Access Foundation?
“The tech industry is one where there is a profile,” she said, “and African Americans and Latinos and Native Americans do not fit in that profile.”
So she helped launch TAF and its after-school tech internship program in the racially diverse Columbia City neighborhood in Southeast Seattle. It began as a high-school program that eventually expanded all the way to kindergarten. It gave hundreds of kids a huge boost in their academics and understanding of technology, but it still wasn’t enough.From Geek Wire:
But inside those modest walls is something approaching a revolution in STEM education. TAF Academy, a sixth- to 12th-grade public school focused on teaching kids science, technology, engineering and math, is defying the odds.Dziko says about the Academy:
Roughly 20 percent of the students are black, 20 percent are Hispanic and 30 percent are white. Half of the 300 kids qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
Yet, 95 percent of the high school students graduate on time — compared to 78 percent of kids in public schools across Washington, and only 68 percent of African American students hit that mark statewide.
And with stats worthy of elite private schools, 100 percent of the TAF Academy graduates are accepted into college.
“Kids want to stay with this program because they know No. 1 that they are loved, and No. 2, if they fail, they’re not labeled as a failure,” Dziko said. “We are the place where they want to be.”As Geek Wire details, Seattle Schools was where Dziko had first wanted to put the Academy (either at RBHS or Cleveland.) But there were issues (I even brought up one at the time but I wanted this to happen.) But no, it didn't and Federal Way welcomed them with open arms.
“Our original plan was to open five TAF Academy schools,” Dziko said. But then the organization hit another roadblock with the passage of the charter school initiative, which drew resources and attention away from their approach. So they shifted to a new model: transform existing public schools.
TAF is working on its third transformation school, Boze Elementary in Tacoma. Some 83 percent of Boze students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, more than one-third of the kids are Hispanic or Latino and 17 percent are black.
Many of the instructors had been burned in the past by new educational fads thrust upon them and then abandoned soon after. But in the end, 90 percent of the Boze teachers voted to partner with TAF.And next?
Next year, TAF takes another leap. The STEM school is leaving its portables and merging with Saghalie Middle School in nearby Federal Way. Overnight, they’ll grow from 300 students to 800.
This could be one of the toughest tests of the TAF approach. The strategy of building strong relationships with students and families and tackling project-based curriculum are more easily accomplished in a smaller school.
What has been accomplished by TAF is nothing short of amazing. I wish that the district would partner with them at Cleveland to build an even stronger program (or at RHBS) and fill those buildings.