As we settle back into our normal routines after the holiday season, it’s common for our thoughts to focus on what we want to accomplish in the year ahead. With the holiday celebrations now over, our work to improve Tennessee education outcomes in 2023 is just beginning.

Our state economy is thriving, but too many Tennesseans are not able to take advantage of the job opportunities available in today’s labor market. During the global pandemic, we’ve seen disruptions to learning and a decline in the number of high school graduates going to college. In 2023, we must do the hard work necessary to ensure that every Tennessee student is on a stronger path forward.

We have identified three key focus areas for the year ahead:

  • Advance high-quality instruction for every student
  • Address Tennessee’s college-going decline with urgency
  • Prepare all Tennessee students for work

Advance High-Quality Instruction For Every Student

Teachers are essential to improving student achievement, and in 2023 we must grow Tennessee’s teacher pipeline. We can do this by reducing the cost of becoming a teacher, creating a new path for licensure advancement, and providing leaders with data about their teachers. We must ramp up effective instruction by strengthening data collection and reporting on academic interventions, providing funding for tutoring, and supporting high-quality literacy instruction in the early grades. The success of high-quality public charter schools can meaningfully advance improved outcomes for the state’s highest-needs students, so we must also strengthen Tennessee’s public charter school sector by protecting our foundational charter policies, increasing access to facilities for charter schools, and strengthening authorizer pathways for high-quality charter operators.

Address Tennessee’s College-Going Decline With Urgency

When it comes to achieving economic independence in today’s labor market, a postsecondary credential offers access to a wider variety of career opportunities. That’s why it’s imperative that we reverse Tennessee’s college-going decline. We must do more to ensure that Tennessee high school students are prepared for postsecondary education. We must bridge the transition between k-12 and postsecondary education byinvesting in summer bridge programs and postsecondary advising, as well as developing a college and career advising endorsement for teachers, counselors, and other school staff. In 2023, we must increase postsecondary access for students by taking steps like strengthening the Tennessee Promise Scholarship and conducting a financial and return on investment analysis for Tennessee colleges.

Prepare All Tennessee Students For Work

We can ensure that all Tennessee students are prepared for work by leveraging our data systems to inform employers, policymakers, educators, and communities about how to narrow the talent gap. We can provide more students with workforce-relevant training by reimagining credentialing at community colleges. And by holding higher education more accountable for workforce outcomes, we can ensure that more Tennessee students complete a credential leading to a job that provides economic independence.

For more than a decade, Tennessee has made significant progress to improve public education and workforce opportunities for all Tennesseans. In 2023, our journey continues. Our latest report, 2023 State Of Education In Tennessee: A Stronger Path Forward, outlines how to accomplish these goals in 2023. We look forward to partnering with advocates, policymakers, and education leaders in the year ahead to ensure a bright future for all Tennessee students.