Happy Anniversary, TAF Academy!

This week marks the 20th anniversary for TAF (Technology Access Foundation) and the 8th for TAF Academy.  They are holding a big celebration party this weekend. 

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.

“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.”
What did she start with the Technology Access Foundation?
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.

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.
Dziko says about the Academy:
“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.

Then what?
“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. 


Anonymous said…
If SPS were results and research driven (instead of reactive and complacent), they would partner with local experts like Dziko (and UW) to make the schools more effective for all students.

Ms. Dziko has been helping students achieve success for many years.

The fact that SPS doesn't have at least three TAF-partnered schools already is disgraceful.

Thank you very much for the well wishes and recognition Melissa!

We are so excited about expanding TAF Academy and getting Boze Elementary through year two of their transformation. The expansion of TAF Academy will be a lot of tough work (mostly trying to keep the small school culture in a school three times the size), but the Federal Way School District and TAF have a very strong relationship even through now our fourth superintendent and we'll get through it together. I of course will be spending 80% of my time raising money 'cause it's going to take a lot of that too.

We'll be posting the TAF Academy tour schedule soon, so visit our website www.techaccess.org in about a week or so. The tours are led by students and they are all different. I've gone on at least two a month for the last eight years and every one was unique because every student who leads it is unique.
Jet City mom said…
My oldest worked there with City Year in 2000-2001.
Although she was there to assist the high school students, it gave her direction for her work study job in college, and for her current job now, although neither her undergrad or grad school programs were technology based.

Anonymous said…
My daughter is a graduate of TAF Academy, and I can't say enough about this amazing school. We commuted from Seattle for 5 years and it was worth every second and every gallon of gas. She found her academic and social peers and teachers who genuinely care about the WHOLE student-ALL of them, whatever their stories.

Thank you Trish for all that you do.

Watching said…
Last check, TAF was trying to raise millions of dollars. I'd like to know more about TAF's funding model.
This comment has been removed by the author.
This comment has been removed by the author.
Well using this on my phone isn't ideal. sorry for the deletes.

@Watching, you are correct, we raise about $2.4M per year for all our programs. The funding model for TAF Academy is pretty simple. The district provides what they normally would for any of their schools and we contribute about $2,500 per student to cover technology, professional development for teachers, college and career readiness, and student academic support). The TAF team delivers all the services. We tried to design the funding model as clean as possible.

If you have other questions, I'm happy to answer them.
Watching said…
Thanks for your response. Do funds flow through the school district and who is responsible for audit findings?
Anonymous said…
Small classes and extra resources...just what every public school isn't getting.

-This is obvious.
@Watching, the funds we raise either go directly to our staff for providing services or vendors providing materials and services. The district controls all the funda they get from state, fess, levys, etc. We each have our separate audits.
@obvious, you are right, smaller class sizes and more resources are a huge help, but there's much more to it than that. It's about the culture and environment of the school which is shaped through cooperation. Boze Elementary is a comprehensive school, yet our work with them is showing that environment and culture matter.
@Watching, the funds we raise either go directly to our staff for providing services or vendors providing materials and services. The district controls all the funda they get from state, fess, levys, etc. We each have our separate audits.
Watching said…

It appears that TAF hires Teach for America. Here is what TfA has to say:

"Awesome story about our partners at TAF Academy in Federal Way and their commitment to bring STEM to all kids!"

Approximately 40% of students in grades 3-8 are passing exams. TaF's test scores can be found here.


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