We know that the education system in the United States is not as internationally competitive as it used to be, or as it was when I was growing up.  New graduates are competing for jobs against students from around the world, and they are losing. Nationwide, more than 70% of students graduate from high school school—but only 26% leave meeting college readiness benchmarks, according to the ACT. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that 15-year-olds in the U.S. rank below their peers in 23 industrialized nations when it comes to math literacy.

The challenges hit close to home as well. In Tennessee, our schools have consistently under-performed. We’re ranked 45th nationally in eighth-grade math and 41st nationally in fourth-grade reading.

But we can reverse these disturbing trends. In February 2009 I started an initiative called the Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE). SCORE’s mission was to jumpstart long-term educational change in Tennessee, ensuring that every child graduates high school prepared for college or a career. SCORE is supporting bold reform in Tennessee, which is at the leading edge in school reform across the nation.

SCORE is instilling a renewed sense of urgency around the work to improve student achievement in our public schools and driving change among educators, policymakers and business leaders. SCORE’s activities include driving innovative education initiatives, advocating new policies that make a difference for children, and supporting implementation efforts. Working at the grassroots and grasstops levels, this is a private, citizen-led initiative that focuses on four key levels of changes: great teaching, strong leadership, high standards, and the effective use of data to support teaching and learning. One of SCORE’s key efforts is to recognize dramatic improvements in student achievement, work that is done through  the annual SCORE Prize.

You can join by engaging in local efforts in your school district and by talking with, and working with your local elected officials and school boards to help implement SCORE’s recommendations by demanding educational excellence in your community. Together we are helping improve schools across the state. For more information, please visit the SCORE website at or follow SCORE on Twitter at

Join me in learning what each of us can do to make sure that no child is left without the opportunity to succeed.