Conferences, Professional Development

The Achievement Program Teacher Information Session

Yesterday, I attend a Teacher Information Session for The Achievement Program (TAP) held in Ann Arbor, Michigan (about an hour-and-a-half north of where I live).  Ever since TAP was first announced in March at the 2011 MTNA Conference as a collaboration between the Royal Conservatory and Carnegie Hall, I’ve been interested in learning more about the program and what it has to offer.  The sessions I attended at the MTNA Conference and the NCKP were helpful, but I have to say that attending this 3-hour workshop provided much more insight into the program.  Today, I’m sharing my notes with everything I learned about TAP!

Dr. Andrew Hisey was our presentor.  He began the workshop by giving a brief look at the history of TAP and how this collaboration came about.  Then he talked about the goal of TAP: to connect people coast-to-coast with a common language and share the celebration of accomplishments.  TAP can help people (non-musical or not) recognize certain levels of achievement that our students have reached.  TAP in this way can also help unite independent music teachers across the nation.

The syllabuses for TAP are available as a free download on their website as pdfs.  The Piano Syllabus normally costs $20, but they gave away free hard copies at this session to all attendees.  The current syllabus was revised in 2006.  They revise the syllabus every 7 years to vary the repertoire (about 70% of it stays the same).  

One of the advantages of TAP is the quality of the assessments.  Assessments are given by rigorously trained adjudicators that travel to assessment centers.  Having third party adjudicators is advantageous to avoid any bias that might occur when an adjudicator knows the students’ teachers.  There are currently about 350 TAP adjudicators in the U.S.

The training that TAP adjudicators undergo involves first an application, an interview, a series of lectures/mock exames/etc., an “apprenticeship” alongside a real adjudicator, and finally, surprise “drop-in’s” from chief adjudicators.   The training teaches them how to use positive, concrete language and how to grade fairly and equally to the other TAP adjudicators.  Even once they officially become adjudicators, they receive feedback from headquarters regarding the comments they give on assessment sheets and are provided with statistics letting them know how the scores they give compare to the national averages.   In TAP, the quality of the adjudicators is definitely a priority and an advantage of the program!

When students successfully pass their practical assessments, they can view their scores/comments on TAP’s website as a pdf file.  TAP’s website is also where students/parents register for assessment, and teachers can login to view all their students’ assessment sheets too.  Students receive certificates for their achievements in the mail.

After a short break, Dr. Hisey gave a demonstration adjudication.  Dr. Kelly Benson (from University of Michigan) pretended to be an 8-year-old student performing for a Grade 2 assessment.  To me, this was the most beneficial part of the workshop — to see how the adjudicators interact with students, and then to see the assessment evaluation sheet afterwards!  The assessment sheet showed a nice balance of both qualitative and quantitive evaluation, and the comments Dr. Hisey gave were detailed and specific.  I was very impressed!

A few other quick things I learned:

  • The Frederick Harris Co. (the Canadian company which publishes many of the materials that correspond to TAP) is a not-for-profit company.  Their materials are a bit pricey, but knowing this fact makes me more willing to invest in their materials!
  • The Theory Assessments in TAP are separate from the Practical Assessments.  The numbers of the levels do not correspond to each other; in other words, the Level 1 Theory does NOT correspond to the Level 1 Practical Assessment.  Teachers can be flexible in choosing how to use these areas with their students.
  • You can become a “Founding Teacher” of TAP by entering at least one student in the TAP this year.  One benefit of becoming a Founding Teacher is that your information will be listed in their TAP teacher directory on their website.

Dr. Hisey ended the workshop by answering any questions we had.  One important topic that was raised was about what will happen to the current state assessment programs in the U.S..  (Many state-level associations of MTNA in the U.S. have established high-quality programs for teachers to enter their students.)  Dr. Hisey stated that TAP does not wish to knock out any established state testing — it’s simply another wonderful resource for teachers to in their teaching.  TAP can coexist with the other options out there.

Dr. Hisey also pointed out that although the costs of entering a student in a TAP assessment are (in some cases) double the cost of entering students in state testing, the expense is worth it.  It may not be the program of choice for every student in your studio, but it may certainly be an excellent choice for some of them.  TAP provides quality assessment that both rewards past accomplishments and provides constructive criticism to use in the future.  And, importantly, it strives to create a recognized standard for all people to recognize the musical achievements reached by our students.

There is much more to learn about TAP, but that’s a quick summary of the main things I learned yesterday!  Click here to see if there are any upcoming Teacher Information Sessions in your area.  I highly recommend attending one if you can!  (It’s free!)

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1 thought on “The Achievement Program Teacher Information Session”

  1. I’m attending one today in Wisconsin. I’m actually going to go through the testing myself to know what it is about. I’ll be doing the Grade 10 test in the Spring, and one of my students I’ll put in for grade 3. It’s a great program!

    My end goal is to go through the Piano Pedagogy certifications just to boost my credentials.

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