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 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

Letter from Jamie Woodson: Charting the Path toward Greater Student Achievement

AR 2017 cover vertical borderDear Friends,

In 2011, Tennessee was trailing the nation educationally. Ranking between 46 to 41 in reading and math for fourth- and eighth-graders, Tennessee needed to do better. And, remarkably, Tennessee did.

Our students now rank in the top half of all states for fourth-grade math and in the top 20 for fourth- and eighth-grade science. This progress came about with a collaborative, student-centered vision, courage in setting bold goals, excellence and innovation in achieving those goals, and an optimistic belief in the ability of Tennessee students to achieve at the high levels.

Our 2016-17 State of Education in Tennessee report updates readers with the work from the past year and sets priorities for the year ahead. These priorities form a student-focused “to-do list” to help continue the work to sustain our gains in student achievement and accelerate the pace of improvement in Tennessee.

This year, the list is focused and forthright, with three priorities:

Full Priorities

These three priorities reflect both Tennessee’s progress, areas of improvement, and the goals that SCORE and education partners across the state strive to achieve:

• Maintaining Tennessee’s place as one of the fastest-improving states,
• Making real progress in narrowing long-standing gaps in educational achievement, and
• Enhancing the postsecondary preparedness of high school graduates.

Our vision is bold but also necessary. A better future for Tennessee students requires us to resist complacency with our initial success and to feel a sense of urgency in pressing forward. Improving education in Tennessee doesn’t just lift student outcomes today, it moves the entire state toward a more equal and flourishing society tomorrow. In these early days of 2017, I want to thank Tennessee’s educators, policymakers, and community and business members for your sustained effort. Our collective work has been exceptional, but it is not anywhere close to complete.

Very truly yours,

Jamie Signature 4-2014

Letter from Jamie Woodson: SCORE Education Impact Series Begins with the Military and National Security

Dear Friends,

Military Impact LogoA strong education touches all facets of society. Schools mold students, but those students then become doctors, farmers, soldiers, business owners, and citizens of tomorrow. From healthcare to the economy, K-12 education affects the vitality of diverse fields of industry and the community at large.  Education is not just an end in itself, it is also a way to secure the prosperity of communities across Tennessee.

In that vein, SCORE will host the Education Impact Series, a series of events to highlight the deep connections between education and critical public policy areas in Tennessee – military, agriculture, health, economic growth, and criminal justice. On Friday, December 16, SCORE will convene the first of the series, “Protecting Our Future: How K-12 Student Achievement Impacts the Military and National Security.” This event will gather military and education leaders to examine the intersection between military readiness and education.

There is a strong connection between military readiness and education, especially around the issue of improving student achievement. While many Tennessee students might aspire to a military career, too many are held back by insufficient knowledge or skills. A representative sample from 2004-2009 showed about one in four applicants failed to score high enough to enter the Army.  Other students will meet minimum entry-level requirements, but, as SCORE Director of Outreach Taylor Hall writes in a SCORE Sheet blog, “They have restricted opportunities for professional growth due to low academic performance.” As Tennessee prepares all students for their future, we should not overlook preparing students for success in the military.

Similarly, Tennessee education should support all students, including the 40,000 students from military families living in Tennessee. Understanding the unique backgrounds of these students can help the state provide a quality education, better tailored to their needs to supporting our military families as they support our communities through their service.

These are just a few of the ways education and military readiness converge in Tennessee. I invite you to learn more and join us on December 16 at the SCORE Impact Series on Military Readiness. Please RSVP to obtain a free ticket for admission.

The SCORE Education Impact Series aims to inform and inspire action to advance greater K-12 student achievement in Tennessee. By working across fields to improve Tennessee education and open more doors for all students, we are also working toward the future security and success of our state and our country.

Very truly yours,


Letter from Jamie Woodson: Preparing Tennessee Students for the Opportunity Ahead

Dear Friends,

Opportunity. That is the one word astronaut Butch Wilmore, a Tennessean who spent half a year on the International Space Station, wants Tennessee students to remember.

“Education gives opportunity. And that’s the only thing that gives you opportunity to choose what field you want to go into,” Captain Wilmore told students during a statewide tour last week with Governor Haslam and Commissioner McQueen. The reason for the visits to hundreds of students at three schools was to share the good news that Tennessee students have made record-setting gains in science on the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

November NL -SciNAEP, commonly referred to as the Nation’s Report Card, is a yardstick for measuring Tennessee academic performance over time and in comparison to other states. These science results show that Tennessee students not only grew faster than the nation as a whole, their gains were double the national pace. You will recall that last year we learned that Tennessee ranked in the top 25 states for the first time on the NAEP fourth-grade math assessment. Now Tennessee has added two more top 25 achievements, with fourth-graders 19th in the nation and eighth-graders 21st on the 2015 NAEP science test.

Captain Wilmore was exactly right when he put the focus on “opportunity.” The Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University projects Tennessee will have more than 280,000 health, science, technology, and engineering jobs by 2020. Our students, and our state, must be ready for those career opportunities.

This outstanding academic performance in science is evidence that the work by teachers, school and district leaders, parents, policymakers, and education stakeholders is preparing more Tennessee students for the future. Once Tennessee began raising expectations, strengthening teaching, and emphasizing postsecondary education and workforce readiness for all students, our academic growth has been fast and sustained in multiple subjects over multiple years. While work remains to ensure all students in our state are prepared for their future, the trend in Tennessee is in the right direction.

Many of us remember when Tennessee was among the lowest-ranked states for student achievement. When Tennessee pledged to become the fastest-improving state for student achievement, we knew that the goal was bold but believed that our state – and especially our educators and students – could rise to the challenge. We collectively worked for a better future for Tennessee students, and these science results should give us all a reason to feel especially proud.

Tennessee has shown once again that when we expect more, our students achieve more. Thank you for all you have done, are doing, and will do to give Tennessee students the opportunity to have a bright and successful future.

Very sincerely yours,

Jamie Signature 4-2014

Letter from Jamie Woodson: Tennessee Can Make Sure Early-Career Teachers Are Prepared for Day One

Dear Friends,EdPrep Cover

Tennessee has become a national leader in raising student achievement because of strong resolve to set bold student achievement goals and to make ground-breaking change to reach those goals. On Tuesday, SCORE released Prepared for Day One: Improving the Effectiveness of Early-Career Teaching, a report that explores new opportunities to support greater student achievement.

Well-prepared teachers help students learn and achieve more. Many people know this by experience, and the data support that conclusion. A year with highly effective teaching can help students gain more than a year’s worth of learning growth.

The SCORE report, reflecting thoughtful insight from experts on educator preparation in Tennessee and the nation, is grounded on the premise that thorough preparation for the next generation of teachers will have a tremendous impact on student learning and achievement gaps. Prepared for Day One examines the current state of educator preparation and issues eight recommendations, including strengthening classroom-based experiences for teacher candidates, enhancing the racial and ethnic diversity of the teaching population, and increasing collaboration between educator preparation programs (EPPs) and school districts.

Student teaching, classroom observation, internships, job-embedded experiences, and residencies are all ways prospective teachers can gain experience and refine their practice before graduation. Tennessee already has models worth sharing and drawing inspiration from. The Tennessee Board of Regents’ Ready2Teach provides teachers with a full year in the classroom and a highly effective mentor teacher. Other Tennessee models include the Memphis Teacher Residency, Nashville Teacher Residency, Belmont Urban Teacher Residency, and Project Inspire.

Stronger collaboration between districts and EPPs, another of the report’s recommendations, supports strengthening classroom-based experiences and furthers EPP and district communication on staffing needs and professional expectations for teachers. Districts and EPP partnerships can better prepare future Tennessee teachers through collaboration and innovation.

As Tennessee schools serve an increasingly diverse population of students, we need to intensify efforts to recruit teachers of similarly diverse backgrounds and to provide the support they need for success. A diverse teaching workforce will help students from all backgrounds achieve more.

Most successful Tennesseans can point to a teacher who challenged and supported them. For me, that teacher was Mrs. Ruth Dunning, who taught AP American History and International Studies and sponsored Model UN at my high school. Mrs. Dunning had very high expectations for me and all of my peers. She supported my earliest interest in public service and leadership. My hope is that every Tennessee student experiences highly effective teaching, like the teaching I experienced in Mrs. Dunning’s class. Prepared for Day One: Improving the Effectiveness of Early-Career Teaching charts the steps Tennessee can take to ensure that new teachers enter Tennessee classrooms with the preparation they and our students deserve.

Very truly yours,

Jamie Woodson

Letter from Jamie Woodson: Learning, Growing, and Developing New Strategies for Student Success

Dear Friends,

The SCORE Prize Summit, a 36-hour event that brought hundreds of Tennessee educators together to learn, grow, and develop new strategies for student success, began bright and early on a Friday morning. With their first cups of coffee, these educators from all across the state began conversations that echoed around the convention site in Nashville and would continue beyond the conference’s close.

Throughout the summit, educators listened closely to each other, jotting down what they were hearing, as they discussed the best ways to achieve academic excellence for all Tennessee students. They literally leaned into conversations – sharing ideas and experiences, pausing with furrowed brow to consider, raising their hands with another question. They applauded the work of their colleagues, invested in each oSP-Summitther’s success. When they said goodbye at the end of the summit, many had strengthened their ties with colleagues on their district teams and made new connections, revived by the conversation and looking forward to continuing that conversation through the school year.

We knew this event was going to foster collaboration, illuminate proven approaches for greater student achievement, and unleash innovative thinking. But these Tennessee educators embraced the spirit of the summit with their focus, capability, and dedication.

In education, policy is just a part of picture. Much of the difficult, complicated work lies in the implementation of that policy – translating the idea into student-focused practice. Seeing first-hand the caliber of educators leading districts, schools, and classrooms renewed my belief that real, generational change is not just possible but within reach in Tennessee. The educators at SCORE Prize Summit are individuals who will stay the course and who will help Tennessee build on the progress of the last few years and accelerate the gains for students.

As with SCORE Prize, the enthusiasm kindled at SCORE Prize Summit will be felt long after the event itself. The summit indeed was, as SCORE Policy and Research Analyst Jeremy Meredith put it, a place “where ideas take root and translate to action, and a sustained dialogue about empowerment, high expectations, and innovation spreads into the culture of schools and districts.”

Seeing firsthand the expertise and the dedication of educators has left me feeling both inspired and confident that creating and sharing strong strategies for student success is an integral part of the Tennessee way.

Very sincerely yours,

Jamie Signature 4-2014

Letter from Jamie Woodson: Great Teachers Dream and Drive as Tennessee Goes Back to School

Dear Friends,

As school starts again, I cannot help but think of Tennessee’s teachers.

The teachers I know are busy creating engaging lesson plans, planning their own professional learning, and focusing intentionally on how best to help their students broaden and deepen their understanding so they are ready for the next week, the next grade, and beyond.

T8-2016 Jamie letterennessee teachers hold great expectations for the upcoming school year and spend countless hours before the students are even in the building preparing to make the new school year even better than the last. Teachers dream, and then they put their dreams into action to help their students achieve more.

I was privileged to see some of that drive and passion during the first convening of the 2016-17 Tennessee Educator Fellowship. Hailing from all parts of the state and teaching a wide variety of subjects, the Educator Fellows are brimming with big ideas for their classrooms, schools, profession, and students. It was clear from the days we spent with them that they have the drive to turn their ideas into reality.

As we look to the months ahead for our teachers and students, it is worth remembering the significant progress Tennessee has experienced in the last five years. This growth would not have been possible without the hard work, dedication, and leadership of so many Tennessee educators. Maintaining the progress will require empowering people at all levels – district leaders so they can set a student-focused vision, principals so they can drive instructional excellence, and, especially, teachers so they can lead, inform, and enliven conversations on education practices and policy.

So this August, please join me in thinking of Tennessee’s teachers and supporting these amazing educators – the teachers who stay late making sure their classroom is perfect for the first day, the teachers who spent chunks of their summer poring over books to better their instruction, the teachers who reach into their own pockets to pay for the materials their students need, and the teachers who took on a new leadership project and collaborated with other educators.

Thank you, teachers, for your dreams, your drive, and your commitment to students. The outlook for 2016-17 in Tennessee is bright because of your efforts.

Very sincerely yours,

Jamie Signature 4-2014

Letter from Jamie Woodson: Learning from Leaders in Learning at the SCORE Prize Summit

Jamie's LetterDear Friends,

One good way to become the best is to learn from the best.

Since 2011, the SCORE Prize has honored Tennessee schools and districts that are leaders in learning. The 33 schools and 10 districts that have been SCORE Prize finalists and winners have embraced high expectations, empowered their people, and adopted student-focused innovations to rise to the challenge of preparing all students to graduate ready for postsecondary education and the workforce.

The SCORE Prize was created not only to honor great schools and districts but also to share their field-tested practices with others facing similar academic challenges.

In the spirit of the SCORE Prize, which will not be awarded in 2016 because of the statewide assessment transition, we are convening the SCORE Prize Summit: Strategies for Student Success to help elevate educational excellence and innovation in Tennessee. The summit, held Friday and Saturday, August 12-13, in Nashville, will showcase and share effective approaches to increasing student achievement used by SCORE Prize winners and finalists and other high-performing schools and districts in Tennessee.

The academic progress that has made Tennessee the fastest-improving state for student achievement has been fueled by the teamwork within schools, districts, and communities to develop and carry out a plan of action. For that reason, the summit has been structured to be attended by teams of teachers, school leaders, and district leaders.

In concurrent sessions tailored to their specific roles, summit participants will first learn about some of the most exciting academic work in Tennessee schools. Then, before the summit concludes, the educator teams will collaborate on action planning so they go home with a map that will lead their students to achieve more academically.

There is still time for teams to register for the SCORE Prize Summit, and those who attend can earn professional development credit from TASL and CEO Academy.

Tennessee and SCORE have set a goal of lifting student achievement in this state to the top half of the nation by 2020. We know our students and educators are capable of reaching this admittedly high goal because Tennessee’s fourth-grade math results cracked the top 25 on the Nation’s Report Card in 2015.

By sharing the best ideas from some of the best educators at the SCORE Prize Summit: Strategies for Student Success, we hope to illuminate proven approaches for greater student achievement and to unleash innovative thinking for new ways to accelerate the progress.

Very sincerely yours,

Jamie Signature 4-2014

Letter from Jamie Woodson: Empowering Student-focused Teachers to Develop Their Voices

JW June 2016 NewsletterDear Friends,

When great teachers grow as leaders and participate in the discussion about sustaining and improving student-focused policies and practices, they help their profession and their students.

With that thought, SCORE launched the Tennessee Educator Fellowship in 2014 to provide a yearlong experience for classroom teachers to learn about, reflect on, and inform the policies, practices, and systems that affect student achievement and educator effectiveness. We are impressed by the ways the Tennessee Educator Fellows have used their voice to illuminate both the success happening in classrooms across Tennessee and areas for more improvement.

Over the past year, the 2015-16 cohort of fellows impressed and inspired us in their efforts on behalf of their students, their colleagues, and their communities. These 26 teachers have polished their advocacy and communication skills while deepening their understanding of education issues facing Tennessee. They have connected with policymakers, community members, parents, business leaders, and other educators to share their vision of a better future for our students. While their year of fellowship has ended, I am confident that as alumni of the program they will continue to use their voices to further a shared vision of continued improvement for Tennessee schools.

I am looking forward to welcoming the 2016-17 cohort of Tennessee Educator Fellows, the largest class yet, when they convene for the first time in person July 18-20. These 49 teachers, who represent a broad range of the diversity of educators in Tennessee, bring a wealth of experience and expertise, and I am excited to learn more about them and their perspectives on how best to advance student achievement in Tennessee.

Empowering Tennessee teachers was one priority set forth in the 2015-16 State of Education in Tennessee report. The expanded Tennessee Educator Fellowship will give a new cohort of teachers the knowledge, strategies, and confidence to speak on behalf of their profession and Tennessee’s students. When we cultivate and elevate the voices of these Fellows, the conversation becomes more productive, pragmatic, and most importantly, more centered on students.

Very truly yours,

Jamie Signature 4-2014

Letter from Jamie Woodson: The Work of Our Teachers is at the Heart of Student Achievement Success

Teacher Appreciation Collage1Dear Friends,

When we look at the data and at the ways Tennessee is influencing national education conversations, we know Tennessee is moving in the right direction for student achievement. When we have the opportunity to spend some time in a Tennessee classroom, it is immediately apparent that at the heart of this success is the important work of our students and truly great teaching.

The recognition of the importance of teaching is why Tennessee sets aside the first week of May to honor the state’s teachers. The importance of great teaching is why the Expect More, Achieve More Coalition has collected stories about this student focused work from students and teachers for a series called Tennessee Success Stories.

Tennessee’s teachers go above and beyond to help their students learn and grow. These teachers leap out of bed to teach students algebra, like Kyle Prince of Rutherford Schools, or empower students with new knowledge, like Curtis Herring of Arlington Community Schools. Teachers work tirelessly to develop new approaches to support students who are struggling to learn a concept and students who are ready to take on more challenging work.

Many of these Tennessee success stories are from the perspective of students, and they explain how a teacher helped them learn something new or overcome a challenge. One student writes of the teacher who helped him master the use of commas in an essay, and another tells of the teacher’s support in raising his math ACT score so he is well prepared for college. The common thread in these stories is how teachers both challenge their students with high expectations and then work with the student to meet those expectations.

Even after Tennessee Teacher Appreciation Week has ended, let’s continue to salute our teachers. Throughout May, SCORE is sharing stories from the Tennessee Success Story page, our Educator Spotlight page, and more with the hashtag #iLoveTNteachers. Please take some time to read these stories and share your own story of a life-changing teacher on social media using the #iLoveTNteachers hashtag.

Tennessee teachers play a large role in making sure our students graduate prepared for postsecondary education and the workforce. Their hard work benefits not only their students but all of society. Their dedication, innovation, and consistent focus on students should be honored not just during one week, or one month, but all year.

Very truly yours,

Jamie Signature 4-2014