Tennessee at Crossroads: 2013-14 State of Education Report

When SCORE was launched in 2009, we identified a “once in a lifetime opportunity” for unprecedented growth in student achievement in Tennessee. In November, we have learned that the efforts of educators, policymakers, and other stakeholders have helped Tennessee become the fastest improving state in the nation – and 2nd overall behind the District of Columbia – in terms of student achievement according to the Nation’s Report Card.

It was a huge achievement for Tennessee. But it was only the beginning.

Tennessee is at a crossroad – a critical point – in its pursuit of a better public education system. Tennessee is still under the NAEP national average, and we can’t lose our sense of urgency.

At SCORE, we believe it is critically important for a non-partisan, non-governmental organization to examine our state’s progress, to identify promising practices as well as challenges, and to provide specific recommendations for how Tennessee can continue on the pathway of preparing all students for success in college and the workforce.

The 2013-14 State of Education in Tennessee Report reflects months of research and more than 500 interviews with educators, students, policymakers, and other Tennesseans.

This year’s report is grounded in five key areas that we believe are crucial to Tennessee’s work to improve student achievement in the year ahead: Maintaining a commitment to rigorous standards and assessments; Strengthening schools through effective leadership; Expanding student access to great teaching; Investing in technology to enhance instruction; and Supporting students from kindergarten to career.

Under these headings are many specific recommendations. Here are just a few that I highlighted this morning.

  • Tennessee must stay the course on the continued implementation of the Common Core State Standards.
  • Because measuring student success with higher standards is a precursor to informing effective instruction, Tennessee must continue its commitment to implementing the PARCC assessments.
  • Principal preparation programs in our state should have rigorous selection processes and curriculum requirements that prioritize the skills that instructional leaders need.
  • Teacher support is crucial. It is imperative that teachers are provided with the tools and resources that will enable them to be experts in their profession.
  • School districts should create, as well as protect, time and opportunities throughout the academic year for high-quality professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for students.
  • It is critical that public policy implementation enables the state to attract and retain the best teachers.
  • It is important to use technology as a vehicle for quality instruction and for individualizing student learning.
  • We must increase and expand opportunities for high school students to participate in rigorous coursework including AP, International Baccalaureate, dual-credit, and dual-enrollment courses.

These are just a sampling of the points from the full study. I encourage you to visit SCORE’s website to read the full report.

We have great work ahead of us, Tennessee. But we’ve proven that the stakeholders in Tennessee education–the teachers, students, administrators, parents, and policy-makers–are committed to excellence and growth.