The report, “Excellence For All: How Tennessee Can Lift Our Students To Best In The Nation,” outlines priorities for public education that are grounded in goals set by SCORE to remain among the fastest-improving states for student achievement, to close all student achievement gaps, and to prepare all students for postsecondary education and the workforce.
SCORE, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education research and advocacy organization founded by state Sen. Bill Frist, engaged and listened to almost 1,700 Tennesseans from diverse backgrounds and reviewed education research to identify the priorities that will help drive greater student achievement.
“Tennesseans are proud that Tennessee became the fastest-improving state for academic achievement, and now they want our students to rank among the best in the nation,” said Frist, SCORE chairman. “A shared vision and collaborative approach helped Tennessee deliver greater success for students over the past 10 years. The Excellence For All report provides an updated vision for continued collaboration and progress over the next eight years.”
The report identified the top K-12 priorities to:
• make Tennessee the best state to live, work and grow as a teacher. The report recommends the state focus on recruiting the best and brightest for the teaching profession, preparing them well, and supporting them intensively through the first few years in the classroom. It also calls for the state to make it professionally and personally rewarding for teachers to stay in the classroom.
• support every student to become a strong reader and writer. The report said Tennessee students should become the fastest improving in reading. It recommends expanding access to high-quality, affordable instructional materials aligned to Tennessee’s standards, strengthening the training and support of teachers to help students become stronger readers and writers, and building leader knowledge of literacy standards to support effective teaching.
• develop school leaders who are ready to lead learning and people. To develop strong school leaders, the report recommends that Tennessee principal preparation programs emphasize the work of leading instruction and a high-performing team of educators. It also calls on the state to invest in building high-quality, sustainable principal preparation programs.
• ensure high school is the on-ramp to postsecondary studies and jobs. The report recommended Tennessee introduce redesigned high school models with a focus on postsecondary readiness. It says the state’s high schools should give all students access to the coursework that prepares them to succeed after graduation and develop strong partnerships between high schools, higher education, and employers.
• provide Tennessee students with the greatest needs a high-quality education. To ensure that students of color, low-income students, English learners, and students with disabilities receive a high-quality education, the report calls for equitable distribution of highly effective teachers, strong school leadership, and innovative supports that are proven to help students learn at their highest levels.
“Next year, Tennesseans will elect a new governor and at least 23 new members of the Tennessee General Assembly,” said SCORE executive chairman and chief executive officer Jamie Woodson. “Tennessee voters rank K-12 education among the top issues in the state, so there is no better time for those of us who care deeply about Tennessee students to put forth a new vision to achieve even greater academic success. This report aims to ensure Tennessee leads our students to another decade of progress and success.”
SCORE presented the report findings to educators, policymakers and community and civic leaders during an event in Nashville. Panelists included Nancy Dishner, president and CEO of the Niswonger Foundation; David Golden, senior vice president and chief legal and sustainability officer at Eastman Chemical Co.; Dorsey Hopson II, superintendent of Shelby County Schools; Sharon Roberts, chief strategy officer at SCORE; and Cicely Woodard, Tennessee teacher of the year from Metro Nashville Public Schools.
The collaborative approach to the Excellence For All report repeated the process SCORE used shortly after its founding in 2009 to develop a plan to raise the academic performance of students in Tennessee public schools. The report issued by SCORE eight years ago, A Roadmap To Success, helped provide a foundation for the education reforms that followed over two administrations, including higher academic standards, annual teacher evaluation, and strong school turnaround efforts.
The State Collaborative on Reforming Education is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to the goal that every student in Tennessee graduates from high school prepared for postsecondary education and the work force. SCORE drives collaboration across the state on policy and practice to ensure student success. It believes it can achieve goals for Tennessee’s students by empowering people to lead change on behalf of students, insisting on high expectations for what students can achieve and fostering a culture of innovation. For more information about SCORE, visit tnscore.org.