Parents, Learn More about TNReady – a Test That Matters

Beginning April 17, approximately 600,000 students in Tennessee will sharpen their No. 2 pencils and take TNReady, Tennessee’s new state assessment. There’s a lot of information out there about what TNReady is, why Tennessee kids are taking it, and how you can help them prepare. If you’re a parent and you’re already juggling a half million things – soccer practice, homework, and work – you might feel overwhelmed. Don’t worry – this SCORE Sheet post is for you.

Why is it important for Tennessee public school students to take TNReady?

Two reasons.

Option 1 4-18-16First, it’s important to have an annual statewide assessment. Why? Because it gives important information about how Tennessee students, schools, and districts are doing. For parents, an annual test is a mile marker allowing them to see their child’s progress and to continue working with their school to help their child learn more each year. TNReady matters because it is a tool that helps measure and prepare students grade-by-grade for success.

Second, TNReady was designed to work with Tennessee academic standards and measures whether students are gaining the knowledge and skills they should in each grade. To continue making progress in student achievement gains in Tennessee, we need a test that really reflects the material being taught in class and TNReady does that. Since TNReady is aligned to those standards, it better assesses real-world skill and real understanding. For school, for career, and for life, TNReady matters.

What’s unique to this year’s TNReady testing cycle?

Based on feedback from educators after last year’s TNReady, testing time blocks have been restructured to reduce disruptions to instructional time and classroom schedules. Additionally, Tennessee and the new testing vendor, Questar, have taken steps to ensure the success of the administration of TNReady in the 2016-17 school year. All students in grades 3-8 and most high school students will take the test on paper, although some high schools are administering TNReady online after demonstrating technological readiness.)

TNReady is also more rigorous, and it is better aligned with Tennessee standards and 21st-century skills.  For example, TNReady’s ELA section will ask students to analyze literary and informational texts and write in a response to demonstrate critical thinking and communication skills. In math, TNReady moves away from simply multiple-choice questions by giving sections that require students to show their work and enter the correct answer.

Parent_Image9How can I help my kids prepare?

Support their learning. TNReady evaluates the learning that happens all year in the classroom, so making sure your child completes his or her homework and understands new concepts in class is the best way to help them succeed. Communicating with your child’s teacher throughout the year to understand how your child is doing in class is also important – and maybe the teacher will have more tips to reinforce learning at home.

One other thing you can do, especially if your child gets nervous about tests, is help them find ways to manage and use that stress to do well. Remind them of all they have learned, watch for signs of anxiety coming from deeper sources, and share with them a few stress management techniques.

How can I get more information?

Just ask! Here are some reliable, clear sources that will help you get your TNReady questions answered.

  Expect More Achieve More’s Parent Page of TNReady Tips
  Tennessee Department of Education’s Parent Guide
  Tennessee Department of Education’s Supplemental Guide for Students with Disabilities
  Tennessee Department of Education’s TNReady Website

Coffee and Conversation: Education and Tennessee’s Military Families

Coffee - Teacher Leadership4

This post is part of Coffee and Conversation, a monthly interview series that highlights impactful, interesting work affecting Tennessee education. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What is the relationship between the military and national security in general and education?

Anne Haston: A strong well-equipped military is vital to today’s defense. Especially in today’s work when we have so much technology – today’s soldiers and airmen are much more educated. The requirements for their jobs have changed so much with cyber missions and new technology. Education is a really big piece to being able to service in the military.

How does your organization, the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC), help military families?

AH: The Military Child Education Coalition is a nonprofit that focuses on the military child’s educational experience. They create programs to support the military student and the parent and they have a professional development series for educators. It’s important that [military students] receive additional support because military families move on average every 2-3 years and a child can attend 6-9 schools on average. During all those times of separation, especially deployments, they can go from an A student to a B or C student.

Are there things that schools and teachers should think about when they have children making that transition?

AH: Without program-creation, if the teacher can just be sensitive to the fact that a new student needs to be connected to other students right away. Because the last thing you want to see is a student eating alone in the cafeteria.

But MCEC creates programs like that – the student-to-student program is specifically about transitioning students – not just military, but any students that are new to a school – partnering them with another student so they can make friends more quickly. They also have parent-to-parent programs that educate the parents on how to best help their child – from how to prepare for pre-K to how to fill out that FAFSA. Many of those programs go hand in hand with the Tennessee Promise, the Drive to 55. We have been in conversation with state leaders with implementing programs for Tennessee.

Your husband is a military general. Did you go through any of these challenges that military families face?

AH: [Laughs] I have been married to the military for 35 years. We have had the benefit to see what it’s like to be an active duty, a traditional Guard family, and a full-time National Guard family.  It’s good we have all three perspectives.

Our military child was in middle school when his dad deployed to Iraq – he did not want anyone to know about it. If the child is in elementary school there is a lot of talking about it, but in middle school, they don’t really want to be the center of attention. It is worrying. These children grow up spending more time paying attention to the nightly news than your average child.

SCORE had an event on the connection between military and education issues – what do events like that do for the conversation in Tennessee?

AH: Anytime we come together to work collaboratively, that inspires us to keep moving forward. Our military service members truly value education for themselves and their children. We also noticed that several that attended the SCORE summit in December were really pleased to learn things they didn’t know before. We’re looking to keep moving that conversation forward with the AIM High TN initiative. It’s a new partnership to raise awareness of the importance of high-quality education and aligned assessments and it is also to raise awareness across the state about what a big military student and family state we are.

Finally, what’s your go-to work day pick-me-up?

Ginger turmeric tea – but if I’m being really bad – it’s a chocolate mocha.


Anne Haston with her husband Major General Max Haston at the 2015 SCORE Prize

Anne Haston with her husband, Major General Max Haston, at the 2015 SCORE Prize


Anne Haston serves on the Military Child Education Coalition’s Board of Directors. As a child and youth education advocate since 1997, and as first lady of the Tennessee National Guard since January 2010, Mrs. Haston focuses most of her volunteer time on the ‘force behind the force’ – the military child and family. She currently serves on the Advisory Council for the Tennessee Expect More, Achieve More Coalition, and is President-elect for the Knoxville Region University of Tennessee Alumni Association Network Board. She is a mentor for the Tennessee National Guard Youth Action Council and serves as the Military Child & Family Liaison for the Knox County Council PTA. She is married to Major General Terry “Max” Haston and they have one son, Travis, a recent college graduate, and one shelter rescue dog, Harley.

Coffee and Conversation: Teacher Leadership

Coffee - Teacher Leadership4

This post is the first of Coffee and Conversation, a new monthly interview series that highlights impactful, interesting work affecting Tennessee education. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How would you define teacher leadership?

Keilani Goggins: I think a teacher leader is someone who contributes to the success of students and the culture of success at their school.

Peter Tang: It’s about teachers expanding their influence. That influence can be in a school building or school district, in state efforts to improve student outcomes, and sometimes even nationally.

Geoff Millener: I think it starts with people who do a job having a voice in how the job is done.

Geoff, the PEF Fellows are very locally focused. What’s the benefit of having that tailored focus with teachers from the same region?

GM: Working at a local level – you see immediately the influence that you can have. You know, Chattanooga has been changing a lot for about three decades and that’s a place where we have to have education voice. Policymakers and influencers are hungry to hear from our teachers.

So, Hope Street is a national organization. Do Hope Street Fellows work with fellows in other states that Hope Street has a presence in? 

KG: Yeah, so we have the national fellowship and we have them in four different states – North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Hawaii. It is very state-specific, but they do have the opportunities to work across the state lines, which I think is a selling point for our fellowship. It lets you see, I’m here in Sumner County – but there’s a teacher over in Charlotte, Mecklenburg County dealing with the same things.

When teacher return to their schools or districts do they help foster of a culture of teacher leadership?

PT: One cool thing Keilani does initially with the Hope Street Fellows is talking to their district so the district can understand the value proposition in investing the time to send a teacher to a convening.

GM: Our elementary teachers, our counselors, have been able to build a critical mass around what they are specifically working on that makes translating it back to the school a bit easier.

KG: And the type of work you’re doing is so deep – you’re going to communities – don’t you go to a prison and jail?

GM: Yeah, that’s on the docket. You know we know teachers are asked to do a lot more than teach every day. So getting our fellows involved in housing, in criminal justice, just creating some more conversations between these organizations and groups in the community.

When you’re recruiting from classroom teachers how do you strike that balance of making sure they can excel in the classroom and having a sustainable lifestyle?

PT: Geoff, and Keilani and I are in some ways coaches for the teachers we work with and it’s having those honest conversations – what are you involved in, is this the right time for it, when do you say yes and no?

What’re the most innovative or impactful projects that have been done as part of the fellowship?

KG: One of the things our Shelby County fellows did is they talked to Superintendent Hopson. And he charged them with creating a teacher advisory council for him and his cabinet. They had a half day retreat with the Superintendent and team to talk about compensation models, teacher leader pathways and that work.

PT: In our case, a local community partnership to bring together business people, policymakers, and teachers to say “Let’s have a better conversation. How do we support each other?”

GM: [Fellows] come up with a public-facing, student-centered advocacy project. They are looking at things like more and better early childhood education, teacher preparation and retention, school start times, more racial and socio-economic diversity in our schools. We just didn’t anticipate how this would look along the way, but we are excited to see how it unfolds.

What is your go-to morning pick up beverage? Coffee or Tea?

KG: Mine is coffee. I grind my beans right then, I use a French press. It’s serious business.

PT: Coffee gets me too hyped up. I’m a Trekkie. Captain Picard loves a cup of Earl Grey, and I do the same.

GM: Similar to Peter, caffeine and I don’t agree with each other. It’s a bad mix for anyone involved.


Coffee - Teacher Leadership

Geoff Millener leads PEF Chattanooga’s Policy Fellows Program, a 16-month fellowship infusing teacher voice into public policy.  Follow Geoff on Twitter at @gmillener

Peter Tang leads SCORE’s Tennessee Educator Fellowship, a yearlong program that helps teachers learn about and advocate for student achievement and educator effectiveness. Applications for this program open February 1. Follow Peter on Twitter at @petertangck.

Keilani Goggins leads Hope Street Group’s Tennessee State Teacher Program, collaborating with 26 teachers to engage their peers and gather input on education topics. Applications for this program are now open. Follow Keilani on Twitter at @HSG_TN.

The Top Five Engaging Posts on SCORE Sheet in 2016

New Year’s Day is a natural point in time to examine the previous year, celebrating successes, before diving into the following year. As the year closes, we take time to look back at the SCORE Sheet posts that prompted and shaped online conversation on education in Tennessee as measured by views and engagement on these posts.

The most popular posts showcased education successes in Tennessee or shared new developments in education in the state, indicating a keen interest in learning about best practices and trends.

So, before we move into 2017, we would like to share with you the top five engaging posts of 2016.Trousdale Teaching 4-14-15

Trousdale County Fosters Success with Personal Attention and Innovative Use of Data by Amy Griffith Graydon

“At Trousdale County Schools, which also won the district SCORE Prize in 2013, value-added and assessment data are closely monitored from elementary school on. Value-added data guide about 85 percent of classroom forming decisions starting with late elementary grades. The district and schools use the data to divide students into three tertiles – low, medium, and high achievers – and monitor which teachers tend to foster the most growth from students within each group. Placements are adjusted based on student performance, as often as every nine weeks at the middle school grades.”

score_brad_gentryTennessee Educator Fellowship: The Third Way for Teachers to Handle Change by Brad Gentry

“Embracing change or waiting for new changes never seemed like good options to me. I knew there had to be a better way, a way that my voice could be heard. Thanks to the Tennessee Educator Fellowship, I have found that third option. The Tennessee Educator Fellowship has given me many lessons that have helped shape my understanding of education in Tennessee. The fellowship taught me many skills and lessons which will follow me throughout my career, and I know I am a better educator for having participated in the fellowship.” Image1

Five Things Tennessee Parents Need to Know About ESSA by Rachel Miklaszewski

“Over the next several weeks, Tennesseans have the opportunity to offer community feedback on the state’s ESSA plan at town hall meetings hosted by the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE). But if you aren’t closely following federal education policy you may be wondering, “What is ESSA? How do you even pronounce that? And most importantly, what does this mean for Tennessee students?”

GymExploring the Links between Health and Educational Outcomes by Indira Dammu

“Research shows that physically healthy students tend to have better grades, school attendance, and classroom behavior. The impact is especially profound for students from historically underserved backgrounds. Participation in a free school breakfast program, for example, has been positively associated with students being on time; missing less school; and having better attention, behavior, math grades, and standardized test scores. Promoting student physical and mental health is a promising strategy that could have an impact on student achievement.”Toolbox

Chamber Programs Help Rutherford County Students Chart Their Careers by Erika Leicht

“Students in Rutherford County Schools and Murfreesboro City Schools do not need to wait until high school to begin exploring career possibilities. Students in fourth, fifth, and sixth grades can participate in ACE (After-school Career Exploration), an after-school program coordinated by the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce that educates students about high demand occupations and postsecondary opportunities.”


These posts are just the tip of the iceberg of Tennessee’s 2016 education work. As 2017 begins, the SCORE Sheet will continue to push forward posts that showcase success, highlight new areas for innovation, and encourage people to actively understand, talk, and participate in Tennessee’s continued progress in education. Thanks for reading in 2016 and if you have an idea for a 2017 SCORE Sheet post, please contact SCORE Communications Associate Rachel Miklaszewski.

Five Things Tennessee Parents Need to Know About ESSA

Image1Over the next several weeks, Tennesseans have the opportunity to offer community feedback on the state’s ESSA plan at town hall meetings hosted by the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) or on the TDOE’s website.

But if you aren’t closely following federal education policy you may be wondering, “What is ESSA?How do you even pronounce that? And most importantly, what does this mean for Tennessee students?”

Don’t worry – you’re definitely not alone. But by the end of this post, you’ll have answers to all those questions and more.

What is ESSA?

ESSA (pronounced EH-suh) is an acronym for the Every Student Succeeds Act, a federal education law, crafted by Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray, among others. ESSA replaces No Child Left Behind, notably shifting more responsibility for providing a quality education to the states, instead of the federal government.

Great, ESSA’s a federal education law – how does it affect Tennessee?

ESSA requires each state to develop a plan to make sure its public schools are showing growth and achievement for all students. It gives states more autonomy over public education—but at the same time more responsibility. So, Tennessee has been coming up with a plan, in line with federal guidelines and regulations, and that it will share with community members for feedback.

Image3Okay. So what are some of the things in Tennessee’s plan?

Tennessee’s proposed system would give parents and community members a more nuanced view of how schools and districts are performing. It also would give school and districts more and more specific data about the achievement and growth of all their students.

Under ESSA, Tennessee’s new plan will look at student achievement, growth, graduation rates, and data for Tennessee’s historically underserved populations. These requirements are already part of Tennessee’s district accountability system. ESSA also requires that state accountability systems consider progress for English Learners (EL), a new factor for Tennessee. Finally, ESSA asks states to include a student success indicator, a measurement that pushes states to look beyond test scores for measuring schools and districts.

Tennessee’s plan also specifies that schools and districts will be expected to make improvements on those factors. Based on performance, schools and districts will receive a grade ranging from A to F. It’s important to note that this grading system isn’t from ESSA, it is actually from a new Tennessee law. However, this law is in line with ESSA requirements. The A- F grading system will take effect in schools in the 2018-19 school year. This also is the first time that there will be an accountability framework for Tennessee schools; in the past, only districts have been evaluated this way.

Why and how will Tennessee consider data for historically underserved populations?

While seeing a school’s overall achievement or growth for students is one good way to understand school and district data, these averages sometimes hide gaps between different groups of students. ESSA asks states to pull out data for specific groups and see how all different types of students (students from major ethnic and racial groups, economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, and English Learners) are performing to make sure no one is falling behind.

Schools must show that they are reaching these subgroups under Tennessee ESSA plan. Forty percent of their grade will be based on how well districts taught those populations.

What happens if the students in some schools are not doing well?

Image2Tennessee labels schools that fall in the bottom 5 percent of absolute student achievement as priority schools. For priority schools, there are multiple ways to improve, such as district-led intervention, placement in the Achievement School District or Innovation Zone, or tailored intervention from the TDOE. Under ESSA, these priority schools would get more tailored help and support, as well as federal funds, to improve.

Wait, I have more questions and ideas about ESSA and Tennessee!

Here’s a great way to get answers. Attend an upcoming ESSA town hall in your area or provide feedback online. Learn and share more as Tennessee builds its plan, aligned with ESSA, to advance student achievement.

Bristol, January 11, 5 p.m. – Tennessee High School
Chattanooga, January 17, 5:30 p.m. – Orchard Knob Elementary School

Building, Experimenting, Inventing: 3 Innovative Science-in-Action Programs in Tennessee

science3When I heard the great news about Tennessee science students from the Nation’s Report Card, I wondered, “What helped Tennessee achieve this incredible growth?” Commissioner McQueen pointed to Tennessee’s hands-on, science classrooms in her Classroom Chronicles post on the NAEP science growth:

“When I first dug into our results, my mind immediately went to classrooms where I have seen science in action… We have more and more partners who are coming around this work to support innovative new approaches, like blended learning environments, STEM labs, work-based learning, and different professional learning models for educators.”

Commissioner McQueen is right. There are schools across Tennessee that are growing their science, technology, engineering, and math programs with an emphasis on giving students a chance to directly experiment and apply concepts to reality. To show off some of the great work happening in Tennessee schools, here are three programs in the news that are worth sharing and celebrating.

1. William Blount STEM students build models for Chilhowee Dam research

“Students in Randy Puckett’s class at William Blount High School see directly how studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics relate to the real world. They are using what they learn in his STEM II class this semester to study the Chilhowee Dam.

The dam is currently undergoing repairs for seepage, and Puckett’s students are creating models and testing various possible solutions to improve the dam. Using iPads and concrete, power tools, sand, soda bottles and more, in a lab carved out of a couple of automotive shop bays they are building scale models, testing theories, collecting data, improving designs and testing some more.”

Read more at The Daily Times. 

2. Tyner students learning by building energy-efficient tiny house powered by solar energy

“Learning about renewable energy doesn’t involve listening to lectures and staring at textbooks for students at Tyner Academy. Instead, they’re learning by doing — building an energy-efficient tiny house that will be powered by solar energy.

“A lot of people don’t know how much you can do with the sun,” said Tynia Palmer, a junior at Tyner. “Now we do.” Palmer and her classmates are working on the house’s thermal roof, and in coming weeks will be adding solar panels, a composting toilet and a solar oven to the structure.

“Sponsoring the Tyner tiny house is a way to accomplish these twin goals and represents an investment in these students’ future careers by giving them hands-on experience with STEM concepts they are learning in the classroom,” STEM education, program manager Charley Spencer said.”

Read more at the Chattanooga Times Free Press

3. Lemelson-MIT awards $10,000 to students at the STEM School to build an invention

“Students at the STEM School Chattanooga have been awarded $10,000 to invent a detector for bicyclists who are riding in protected bike lanes. The team of eight students is in the initial stages of planning their invention, explained student Alayna Baker. The team will use sensors to detect cyclists and then notify drivers they are nearby at intersections or

The team of eight students is in the initial stages of planning their invention, explained student Alayna Baker. The team will use sensors to detect cyclists and then notify drivers they are nearby at intersections or stop lights. The team decided on this invention because of the growing cyclist community in Chattanooga and “the issue seemed close to home,” Baker said.Tony Donen,

Tony Donen, principal at the STEM School, said this grant exemplifies the spirit of the school, as it encourages students to be inventors, problem-solvers and entrepreneurs. “At school we want to provide students with the opportunity to identify problems and figure out solutions,” he said. “They don’t just go to school to regurgitate information.” Read more at The Chattanooga Times Press.

science1These stories are just a snapshot of the hands-on learning happening across the state. Thes e programs along with other programs that emphasize science in action grow student understanding in unique ways, allowing students to take ownership of their science education and connect the theoretical to the practical. As we celebrate Tennessee’s science growth, it is important to also celebrate the innovative work of educators and communities that accelerated Tennessee’s growth. As Tennessee students experience science in action, Tennessee grows and our students develop the skills to become tomorrow’s scientists and problem-solvers.

Three Words that Describe SCORE’s Visit to Satterfield Middle School

Caring and strategic.

Those words usually don’t go together, but they both fit Troudale County’s Jim B. Satterfield Middle School. SCORE visited the school in October and observed both how the school’s vision and operation reflected their commitment to thoughtful planning and carefully recorded data, and also reflected effusive camaraderie and care. It was a blend of mind and heart.

The tour started with Principal James McCall highlighting the unique challenge of middle school education. Middle school is a difficult place, he explained, there are lots of developmental changes and higher academic and behavioral expectations. At Satterfield Middle, teachers and staff try to strike the right balance between being supportive, but also pushing students take greater responsibility for their actions.

Finding some tables in the school library, Mr. McCall with the help of Director of Schools Clint Satterfield started explaining their school and district vision – essentially a vision of high expectations for all. But vision is at best 50% of the equation, and we – as a group of education advocates – wanted to know, “How did Trousdale put this vision of high expectations into action?”

We made a lot of tough decisions, McCall explained. When he became principal, he knew he wanted passionate educators with a growth mindset and the commitment to teach all students well. It was a high bar and about 75 percent of the school staff changed, but those who remained could focus and move forward on their shared goals.

McCall also realized that if Satterfield’s quality of instruction was going to continue to grow, the school and the district would have to get aggressive about recruiting and retaining teachers, especially since Trousdale is close to wealthier, larger districts. He, along with Dr. Satterfield and other school leaders, developed a plan for recruitment, touting the small-town aspect of Trousdale along with the continuous learning and supportive atmosphere of their schools. Trousdale’s professional development plan for current teachers became a selling point for prospective teachers looking to refine their practice. And Trousdale school leaders also started researching best practices for retaining great teachers, implementing a structure to ensure that great work was being recognized and rewarded.

Just like with teachers, Trousdale school leadership broadly and proactively thinks outside the boundaries of Trousdale County the success of its students. Trousdale County doesn’t have the industry to supply jobs for the majority of its graduates, Dr. Satterfield explained, so they have to think outside of our district. So, Trousdale students in middle school take part of the ACT Explore to help them identify a career field. Then, the school hosts a career fair, so students enter high school with a plan and then, graduate competitive nationally and statewide. This improvement doesn’t just benefit the students, it benefits the entire community. McCall mentioned that school improvements are attracting outside attention and families are starting move to Trousdale specifically for the public school education.

One final word was anchored in my thoughts the SCORE team headed back to Nashville: necessity. As Principal McCall and Superintendent Satterfield talked about high expectations, they didn’t talk about it like it was a bonus or just an extra thing the school was doing, they framed the conversation as doing what was necessary. Insisting on high expectations wasn’t an option, but the only way they could give their students, teachers, and community all they needed to learn and succeed.


Voices of SCORE Prize Summit

In the weeks leading up to SCORE Prize Summit, I spent countless hours combing through the last five years of text, video, and pictures, to create social media and graphics for the summit, searching for the right things to show the story of the incredible progress Tennessee schools and districts have made.

One remark stuck with me. Rick Wilson of Maryville City Schools said this about SCORE Prize based on his experience as a principal at John Sevier Elementary, “The sharing of what works for students is important in our district and in our state as we become the most rapidly improving state in the nation.”

This sentiment captures the importance of the SCORE Prize Summit – it created a space for Tennessee educators to share, think, and innovate together.

The summit was deliberately crafted to support district-led teams of educators – so collaboration could happen both within and between districts. The presentations and themes of the conference were structured around three strands that also inform SCORE’s work: Empowering People, Insisting on High Expectations, and Fostering a Culture of Innovation. Through panel discussions, speakers, and district- and school-led presentations, educators delved deeply into each of these three strands.

During the event, I got the chance to talk to educators and get their perspective on the SCORE Prize Summit – what they were learning from the event and the three strands, how that learning connected to their work, and their plans for the future. I’d like to share a few of their answers and insights from the day.

What do you hope to learn from SCORE Prize Summit?

Putnam County School Leaders


What does the strand Empowering People mean for your work as an educator?

Amber G. Henry
Oak Ridge Schools


What does the strand Insisting on High Expectations mean for your work as an educator?

Cicely Woodard
Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools


What does the strand Fostering a Culture of Innovation mean for your work as an educator?

Charla Hurt
Lincoln County Schools

How do you think events like SCORE Prize and SCORE Prize Summit help education in Tennessee?

Lauren Lott
Greene County Schools


Seeing and capturing the new ideas, energy, and conversations at the summit was definitely a highlight for me. I hope that the conversations from the summit carry on throughout the school year. To re-purpose a saying the SCORE team uses for SCORE Prize, “The SCORE Prize Summit is not just two very full days, it’s also the work that’s being done 365 days a year.”

Engage with conversation on Twitter and Facebook and read more about SCORE Prize winning schools and their strategies for success on the SCORE Prize Website. 

Camp Explore: Reading to Be Ready

Image5Do you remember reading a new book over the summer and diving headfirst into a new world, time period, country, and stepping into the shoes of someone with a different perspective?

This summer SCORE had the opportunity to visit Camp Explore, a program led by Lipscomb University Associate Professor Jeanine Fain that aims to encourage young students to read. Camp Explore was selected as one of 12 programs receiving a sub-grants to improve early literacy, as part of the Tennessee Department of Education’s Read to Be Ready, an initiative made possible by a grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

The all-day program at Camp Explore focused on heavily on reading and writing in the morning, leaving afternoons to enrichment activities – anything from science experiments to a musical petting zoo.

The morning SCORE visited began with a group reading of Pete the Cat, led by a Camp Explore student. Group readings allowed the kids to practice reading aloud, sharing the experience with fellow camp-goers. The students practiced with the book beforehand in anticipation for the group reading. After the big group reading, the students broke into smaller groups and headed into classrooms for more intensive reading work.

As the students went to work with their teachers, Dr. Fain took the SCORE team aside to explain more about the program. She emphasized the importance of summer reading programs in combating “summer slide.” Summer slide is what many parents and educators call the regression students, especially those from low-income households, experience during the summer months. The mission of Camp Explore is to keep the learning going through the summer.

Camp Explore taught reading skills from a variety of angles. In one classroom, a teacher read aloud to her students from a picture book on Dorothea Lange, a Depression-era photographer. The teacher asked her students to talk about the main themes of the novel, asking them to support their thoughts with the words from the book. Then, students wrote about the text, connecting it to their own experiences with the writing prompt: “If you were a photographer, like Dorothea Lange, what would you take a picture of and why?” The students scribbled their answers, all highly original. One little girl said she’d take pictures of flowers, “because the petals are so beautiful.” Another said, they would take pictures of his favorite superheroes, because “they are awesome.” And another girl surprised us with a two-word answer, “howler monkeys.”

From our vantage point, it seemed like Camp Explore had found a thoughtful balance between summer fun and academic practice. This balance was important to Dr. Fain, who noted that she wanted students to be engaged with the Camp in a way that led to real growth. To ensure the camp was growing or at least sustaining learning gains, Dr. Fain and her staff documented the students’ progress weekly to better understand the program’s relationship to improved outcomes.

Outside of that data-driven effort, Dr. Fain took special consideration with both student diversity, parent involvement, and staff selection. She selected J.E. Moss in part because parents there were engaged with the school. Parent buy-in for many of these initiatives was important, she stressed, because Camp Explore asked parents to take time at home to read to their kids. Also, Dr. Fain wanted to select a location that supported a variety of students – students from different racial backgrounds and students with multi-lingual backgrounds. Finally, the team alongside Dr. Fain at Camp Explore were current or future teachers. She hopes that the skills and insights in this program can inform their practice, allowing them to better serve all students.

Although it was just a half-day of observation, I could sense that so many of the students were beginning to develop a love of reading. They, too, were going to relish and remember cracking open books over the summer and learning something new. But even more exciting, these kids were growing, picking up a foundation of skills, so they could start the year off prepared. At Camp Explore, students were truly reading to be ready.


The Question’s Concise, the Answer Complex: Education for Upward Mobility in Tennessee

Are our schools doing all they can for all students?

The 2015-16 State of Education in Tennessee report and the Tennessee Department of Education strategic plan, Tennessee Succeeds, both highlight the need to educate all children, regardless of background or zip code, so they are prepared for their future. The question is how.

To explore further, SCORE convened a SCORE Institute, in partnership with Project Renaissance, to hear from Michael Petrilli, the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and editor of a new book, Education for Upward Mobility. The book examines issues around how to help students born in poverty move into the middle class as adults.

screenshot3Acknowledging that obtaining a bachelor’s degree is a ticket out of poverty, Petrilli then focused on how difficult it is for unprepared students to finish four years of college. In Tennessee, ACT results show that only about 20 percent of students are fully prepared for college, while high numbers of students pass through high school only to be stuck in remedial classes in college. Petrilli emphasized building upon the foundation of high standards and aligned assessment with intentional focus on career and technical education as a way to give more high school students options beyond a four-year undergraduate program. For many students, associate-degrees and technical certificates are obtainable degrees that fit with their education background, Petrilli said. And postsecondary education of some type is crucial to ensuring upward mobility for lower-income students. Institute attendees learned that recent high school graduates in Tennessee earn only about $9,000 a year, a figure below the poverty line.

A panel discussion led by SCORE Executive Chairman and CEO Jamie Woodson with Petrilli, Gini Pupo-Walker of Conexion Americas, and Mike Krause of Tennessee Promise and Drive to 55 examined how Tennessee can help more students find the right fit after high school.

Krause talked about how Tennessee Promise and Drive to 55 allow Tennessee students to choose between a varieties of postsecondary degrees and certificates so students can find the right fit. Pupo-Walker advocated for giving opportunities to high-performing students, especially those low-income and minority students who might be overlooked. Both panelists pointed to Academies of Nashville and the CTE programs and community partnerships in Northwest Tennessee as strong steps forward to prepare students for their future. (Read more about such efforts in Tennessee in this SCORE Sheet series.)

In many ways Tennessee is on the right track with CTE courses, Tennessee Promise, and a new aligned assessment in TNReady. But the panelists concurred that additional thought needed to be given to serving high-achieving low-income students and communicating to parents and the community about the continued need for high standards.SCORE Institute Logo

A big reason people in education wake up and work every day, is because our work can bring positive generational change. As a state that has made significant gains in education, we have a unique position to find and promote policies that improve outcomes for all students. Now, we should ask, “What can we do as individuals, as partners, as organizations to make sure our schools are doing all they can for all students?”