Letter From Jamie Woodson: Opportunity To Hear From Tennessee Gubernatorial Candidates On Education

Dear Friends,

At the start of each new year, I think about the promising opportunities that lie ahead for helping Tennessee students continue to grow academically. In 2017, the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) heard from nearly 1,700 Tennesseans about their dreams and goals for students. We also know from a poll that SCORE commissioned last year that Tennessee voters have identified education as one of the top issues for the next governor.

In this vein, Tennesseans will have an important opportunity to hear from gubernatorial candidates specifically about their visions for education next week. In partnership with the USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee, NewsChannel 5, and Belmont University, SCORE will host the 2018 Gubernatorial Forum on Education. The hour-long forum will begin at 7 p.m. CST on Tuesday, January 23, in Nashville.

This is the last chance to reserve complimentary tickets to attend the forum. If you would like to be one of the hundreds who have already registered to hear the discussion about the future of education in our state in-person, please register today.

Register Now

Tennesseans who cannot attend the forum in person will be able to watch the event on NewsChannel 5 in Nashville, or livestream the event on the Tennessean or NewsChannel5 homepages.

Before the forum, learn more about Tennessee education issues in the SCORE report, Excellence For All: How Tennessee Can Lift Our Students To Best In The Nation. The five student-focused, research-based priorities are the focus of a shared vision for greater academic success for students over the next eight years. As Tennesseans look to elect a new governor and fill at least 20 open seats in the General Assembly this fall, it is important to know why our state has experienced unprecedented progress and the path forward to provide the necessary steps for students to make even greater academic gains.

I look forward to the forum on January 23 because it will let voters hear directly from candidates on one of the most important topics for Tennessee’s future – public education.

Very truly yours,

Letter From Jamie Woodson: Tennessee’s Future – Excellence For All In Education

Dear Friends,

As the new year approaches, I am thinking about the opportunity that lies ahead for our students in not just 2018, but over the course of the next eight years.

It was not too long ago that Tennessee set out to make unprecedented improvements for our students. Tennessee became the fastest-improving state for academic achievement in 2013 thanks to a shared vision, a commitment to focus on what is best for students, and much hard work.

While the academic success of the past 10 years is tremendous and must be celebrated, we know there is much more to be done for our students. Tennesseans next want our students to be ranked among the best in the nation, and they have clear ideas for how we can achieve that. We received feedback from nearly 1,700 Tennesseans this year who believe that our state must be committed to excellence for all students so they can graduate ready to make the most of every opportunity that lies ahead such as earning degrees, serving in the military, and going into a career.

The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) recently released a new report, Excellence For All: How Tennessee Can Lift Our Students To Best In The Nation, that sets a collaborative vision for Tennessee student achievement to continue over the next eight years. The five student-focused, research-based priorities are grounded in goals already set by SCORE and in the Tennessee Succeeds strategic plan.

Next year, Tennessee voters will select our next governor and fill at least 20 open seats in the General Assembly. As Tennesseans face those important decisions, they need a good understanding of why our students are achieving at higher levels than they were 10 years ago and what our students need for even greater academic success.

The Excellence For All report is both a vision plan and an action plan to take Tennessee students farther – and faster – academically. I look forward to collaborating with all of you to lift our students to even greater academic heights over the next eight years.

Very truly yours,

Letter From Jamie Woodson: Across Tennessee, A Call For Public Education To Offer Excellence For All

Dear Friends, 

Next week, the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) will release an important report that shares a collective vision for progress and priorities for Tennessee through the year 2025. The SCORE team has engaged and listened to almost 1,700 Tennesseans from across the state to understand what diverse stakeholders believe should be the next steps for our state’s students.

Overwhelmingly, we heard a clear consensus that Tennesseans want nothing but excellence and innovation for our students. Tennessee has experienced remarkable progress in student achievement over the past decade, including becoming the fastest-improving state on the Nation’s Report Card in 2013. This success has spurred even higher aspirations. Tennesseans want our students to be considered among the best in the nation and the world.

To achieve the dreams Tennesseans have for all of our students, we need to set priorities and work collaboratively and collectively to ensure academic achievement continues to advance in our state.

In response to the feedback from Tennesseans, SCORE has developed a list of priorities for K-12 education and compiled a report, Excellence For All: How Tennessee Can Lift Our Students To Best In the Nation. This report is grounded in goals already set by SCORE and in the Tennessee Succeeds strategic plan while looking farther into the future. The findings will help set a foundation for discussions of education issues during the 2018 campaign and the subsequent transition in state government in a good understanding of the past and the shared vision about the best way forward for students.

I look forward to sharing the report and its priorities on November 29. Our students deserve to continue the unprecedented progress in academic achievement to make this the best state for student success.

Very truly yours,

Letter From Jamie Woodson: How Collaboration, Listening, And Reflection Are Leading Us To Set New Priorities For Tennessee Students


Dear Friends,

The beginning of a new school year is always filled with so much promise. The fresh start is a time for educators and students to reflect on the past year and create a plan for future success.

This year at the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), we have been reflecting on the last decade of unprecedented progress for our students. SCORE’s very first public report, A Roadmap to Success, was released in 2009 with a plan for raising academic performance in Tennessee public schools. Since then, we have witnessed historic gains by students, including becoming the fastest-improving state for academic achievement on the Nation’s Report Card in 2013.

As SCORE began thinking about how to help set the stage for even greater academic gains for students, we saw an opportunity to repeat the groundbreaking process used in 2009 to listen to and collaborate with Tennessee’s education stakeholders.

Over the summer, I wrote about the road trip the SCORE team made across the state to learn what was important in education from a diverse group of Tennesseans. The conversations and feedback involving nearly 1,700 Tennesseans deepened our understanding of communities’ successes and challenges. This month, I want to update you with how SCORE is responding to all of the thoughtful feedback we gathered.

First, the findings of the listening tour were reviewed and discussed by the 32-member SCORE Steering Committee. Then, our Policy Committee began working with our SCORE team to develop a set of priorities that can inform and guide Tennessee’s education work through 2025. The information is now being compiled into a report on the top priorities for continued student success that will be released on November 29, 2017.

With the 2018 Tennessee election barely a year away, this report can help ground voter and candidate discussions about education in a solid understanding of where we have come from and the consensus from a wide range of stakeholders about how best to move forward.

Thank you to the thousand-plus educators, parents, community and business leaders who expressed their strong desire for even greater success for Tennessee’s students. It is your involvement and your dedication to students that will push Tennessee to continue to make historic academic gains.

Very truly yours,

Letter From Jamie Woodson: Helping Parents And Teachers Use TNReady Reports For Greater Learning

Dear Friends,

How can parents know if their children are ready for the next grade? How can they tell if their students are on track to graduate ready to be successful in college or postsecondary education? For the last few years, our state has taken important strides in order to answer these questions. From setting higher expectations in the classroom to ushering in a more rigorous state assessment, Tennessee is on the path to answering those questions for all students.

In fact, parents of elementary and middle school students will receive their first TNReady family reports for grades 3-8 next month. The reports give parents information to act on and provide a big picture look at how their student is learning and growing every year. Because the reports are new and the information is so valuable, the Expect More, Achieve More Coalition has created a video just for parents. The video explains how to read and use the reports to help students learn even more this school year.

In addition, the coalition is hosting teachers and principals at TNReady learning events led by the Tennessee Department of Education across the state in September and October. The coalition wants to be a partner in educator and leader training on the importance and ease of using these reports to better their instructional practice.

For teachers who cannot attend the trainings, there are resources they can download or view on the page for teachers at the Expect More, Achieve More website. Among them is a video of a presentation by Jarred Amato, a Tennessee Educator Fellowship alumnus and Metro Nashville teacher, which details how he uses the TNReady reports to guide his instruction and planning. “I firmly believe that the best test prep for TNReady is high-quality teaching every day. This is my core belief,” Jarred says on the video.

We know – and want parents to understand – that TNReady is a test that matters. It measures what students have learned, rather than test-taking strategies, and identifies what they still need to learn. TNReady matters because it tells parents and educators every year whether a student is on track to achieve his or her postsecondary goals. TNReady matters because the score reports explain what a student has learned and how parents and educators can ensure that the learning continues.

I know I am proud, and hopeful, to watch this student-focused work continue so that we will someday soon be able to say that we know where each Tennessee student stands on the track to being prepared for school, career, and life.

Very truly yours,


Letter From Jamie Woodson: The Undeniable Connection Between Student Learning And Student Health

Dear Friends,

Can a first-grader learn to read when her poor eyesight makes the letters on the page look blurry? Can a ninth-grader focus on solving an algebra problem with a stomach rumbling from hunger?

Every school day, educators across Tennessee see students who are struggling to learn while struggling with health issues. Research supports their field experiences: There is an undeniable connection between health and education.

On Monday, August 28, SCORE will partner with NashvilleHealth for Better Health, Better Learning: A Conversation on Tennessee Student Success. This one-day summit in Nashville will explore the relationship between student health and academic achievement, highlight promising practices in Tennessee and across the country, and share ways to advance student health and education outcomes.

Senator Bill Frist, MD, has been interested in the intersection of health and education since he founded SCORE in 2009. Senator Frist is taking a leading role at the summit, joined by education and health experts – including Dr. Jill Biden, Dr. Richard Besser of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Dr. Lillian M. Lowery of The Education Trust.

In advance of the summit, SCORE released a report that explored the research on improving student health and academic success. Education stakeholders will be interested to know that research shows that physical activity, nutrition, and overall well-being can have a profound effect on student achievement, while high-quality education and academic achievement are associated with improved health throughout life.

Tennessee already has been innovating new approaches to improving student health to improve student learning, with efforts such as the Coordinated School Health program. And we have proved that with focus and determination, our students are capable of unprecedented growth in academic achievement.

Think how powerful it will be when new efforts on both fronts fuel both better health and better learning. The work begins at the Better Health, Better Learning summit, and I look forward to seeing you there.

Very truly yours,

Letter From Jamie Woodson: Road Trips And Roadmaps: Collaborating To Create A Brighter Future For Tennessee Students

Dear Friends,

Summer road trips are a quintessential American tradition. They allow us to discover new things and connect with people and places. In 2009, SCORE took a road trip across Tennessee, visiting and getting feedback from people across the state. Those thoughts and conversations led to the release of A Roadmap to Success, which laid out a specific plan for improving Tennessee student achievement and was foundational to the path Tennessee has taken over the last eight years.

This summer, members of our team embarked on a new educational road trip to learn from people across the state. We invited education stakeholders to a series of regional community conversations to hear their ideas on how Tennessee can deliver on the promise of a high-quality education for all students.

These conversations allow us to take a closer look at our progress and future goals and gather thoughts from a diverse set of Tennesseans invested in our state’s K-12 education system. They once again deepened our understanding of both the challenges and successes individual communities face when it comes to preparing all students for a successful future. Some of those challenges are unique to an area, while others are indicative of wider issues across the state.

Among those issues that emerged across the state, three themes emerged:

• An urgency to address reading in the early grades
• A desire to invest in teachers through improvements both in teacher preparation programs and in teacher professional development
• A focus on aligning efforts between businesses, higher education, and K-12 schools to prepare students for next steps after high school.

SCORE has listened carefully during this summer’s road trips, and what you told us is going to shape a new report we plan to release in the fall that can guide the work of better serving students in the coming years.

While we have grown so much as a state, we still have much more to do. It will take participation and collaboration from all partners to achieve our goals for our students. The summer conversations from this summer education “road trip” renewed both our sense of urgency and our commitment to collaboration, so that from Memphis to Chattanooga, Nashville to the Tri-Cities, every student is prepared for their future after high school.

Very truly yours,

Letter from Jamie Woodson: Through Their Hard Work And Dedication, Teachers Pave The Way For Student Success

Dear Friends,

Teachers encourage confidence and model success for students. They guide students through difficult times, and inspire them to follow their dreams. Eighty-eight percent of American adults reported having a teacher who made a difference in their life. What other profession has the potential to impact the lives of others in such a meaningful, lasting, and personal way?

When I think of great teachers, of course I think of educators who have personally changed my life, such as my AP American History teacher, Mrs. Ruth Dunning, who challenged me with rigorous coursework and inspired me to pursue public service. But I also think of so many Tennessee teachers I have met through SCORE’s Tennessee Educator Fellowship, Elevating and Celebrating Teachers and Teaching (ECET 2), the Tennessee Teacher Leadership Collaborative (TTLC), and other recent initiatives to empower teachers. One inspiring trait I see in all of these teachers is their willingness to go above and beyond to help their students succeed – whether that means creating a math competition for grade-schoolers in Southeast Tennessee, engaging students in a campaign to end book deserts, or working with policymakers and other education stakeholders to advance student-focused policies.

Our educators embrace their unique position to shape future generations. That fact is both a weighty responsibility, which compels them to spend countless hours working for students after the school day, but also the motivation for their dedication, which wakes them up the next day ready to continue. They know their work directly shapes the future.

We see both in research and in experience that teachers have a sizable impact on student achievement. Because of that, SCORE prioritizes accelerating support for educators. During National Teacher Appreciation Month, SCORE, along with other education partners, has launched Teach Today. Change Tomorrow., a statewide teacher empowerment campaign to inspire the next generation of teachers and empower current Tennessee teachers. We have announced the 2017-18 cohort of the Tennessee Educator Fellowship, empowering more educators with the skills to advocate for their students and profession. And our work to improve educator preparation programs and teacher leadership opportunity continues to advance.

Those of us at SCORE are not the ones who spend an extra hour after school with students explaining the Pythagorean Theorem or stay up late meticulously reading and providing feedback to students on their English reports. We do not differentiate instruction to give one student a larger challenge, while at the same time helping another master a concept for the first time. Our state’s teachers are the ones who do all those things. The SCORE role is to support those educators by providing research on quality preparation programs, offering excellent leadership opportunities, and advocating for improved compensation.

In the words of 2015-16 Tennessee Educator Fellow Megan England, “We rise to the challenge of providing what each student needs to be successful.” We salute all Tennessee educators who by their hard work, talent, and dedication help all our students achieve more.

Very truly yours,

Letter From Jamie Woodson: From 2007 to 2017, Collaboration In Helping Students Graduate Ready For Success

Dear Friends,

“Mountains cannot be surmounted except by winding paths,” author and statesman Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe wrote. After two weeks of successful administration of the TNReady assessment, many educational stakeholders in our state feel like we are about to crest a summit after a challenging trek.

TNReady is the culmination of a push to raise student achievement in Tennessee that started in 2007. From the beginning, the student-focused plan relied on setting higher expectations in the classroom and measuring how well our students are meeting those expectations with a high-quality assessment. The work began with raising academic standards and creating an evaluation system to give teachers feedback for improving instruction. The first year of full implementation of TNReady puts in place a measuring stick that fully aligns with the standards. Any endeavor that is difficult but worthwhile brings some unexpected trials, but today Tennessee is closer than ever to preparing every student for postsecondary education and the workforce.

Educators have done Herculean work in providing the instruction that students need for TNReady, and SCORE and Expect More, Achieve More wanted to provide support. Beginning soon after school started last fall, these two organizations have collaborated with the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) and district leaders to provide TNReady information, and sometimes inspiration, to teachers, parents, and students.

Radio public service announcements and digital advertising campaigns shared news about the value of TNReady and reductions in the testing schedule. Districts distributed around 350,000 brochures to help parents understand the value of TNReady, while teachers handed out 15,000 TNReady bookmarks assuring students, “You’ve Got This!” Professional development sessions led by teachers and TDOE helped more than 750 teachers learn how to use the new TNReady score reports to inform instruction, and more of these sessions are planned for later this year. Lunch and learn meetings updated community leaders on TNReady. I think my favorite collaboration was to distribute a letter of encouragement from Governor Haslam and No. 2 pencils to 250,000 elementary students taking TNReady for the first time.

These collaborative efforts underscore that we Tennesseans are in this together for our students. As teachers, parents, community members, and policymakers, we all share the collective responsibility of educating our young people. As Expect More, Achieve More puts it, we all want our students to be ready – for school, career, and life. TNReady, and the information it will provide for improving student learning, matters to delivering that future to our students.

Very truly yours,

Letter From Jamie Woodson: The Volunteer State Is Stepping Up to Support Military Students in School

DeaAIm High JW blogr Friends,

Tennessee’s famous nickname the “Volunteer State” comes from our citizens’ history of volunteering for military service. To this day, Tennessee ranks 12th in the nation in the number of military families, with more than 2,189 active duty military servicemen and women and nearly 19,000 members of the military reserves, and half a million veterans. These men and women have kept and continue to keep our country safe and strong, sacrificing their own safety and stability.

Behind those strong men and women are families who also sacrifice. Children of military families move six to nine times over the course of their K-12 education, and those children also face additional stress as their parents deploy. In Tennessee, each of the 95 counties is home to a military family, and our public schools help support the 40,000 military children in the state.

To eliminate some of those hurdles for the children of military members, SCORE and the Expect More, Achieve More Coalition have joined other Tennessee education and military leaders to launch the AIM (Achievement, Innovation, Measurement) High TN initiative. This initiative was started to help military families and children succeed both in the classroom and in life by raising awareness among education and community leaders about the unique challenges military families face and providing resources to help support the academic success of their children.

Those leaders came together on February 15 to announce this initiative and to share their perspectives with the Tennessee community. Raising awareness is a big part of the AIM High TN initiative, Major General Terry M. “Max” Haston explained. “We will do this by providing resources directly to families and working with teachers and school leaders to expand their understanding of how to support military students in their classrooms,” he said.

Metro Nashville Public Schools teacher Martha Shaffer, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who teaches JROTC at Maplewood High School, explained her involvement on the AIM High TN steering committee in this way: “We need to give military families, already under significant stress, the resources to help their children succeed academically throughout their coursework and on their end-of-year test, TNReady. AIM High TN does both, and I am proud to be a part of it.”

Their insights from the day emphasize the importance of caring for our military families and also acknowledged that each one of us can play a role in supporting students from military families. I invite you to learn more about AIM High TN by reading this blog post from the organization’s Steering Committee and visiting the AIMHighTN.com website, where you can find resources for military families.

SCORE and the Expect More, Achieve More Coalition are both committed to ensuring excellence in education for all our students. By raising awareness about the difficulties Tennessee military families face and by providing supports to those families and their students, we move forward in that goal of academic excellence and we also better serve those who serve our country.

Very truly yours,

Jamie Woodson