Woodson: ESSA Plan Builds on ‘Tennessee Way’ for Increasing Student Achievement

The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) has released this statement from Executive Chairman and CEO Jamie Woodson about the Every Student Succeeds Act plan that the Tennessee Department of Education has submitted for federal review:

As Tennessee has climbed in national rankings of academic performance, many people from elsewhere have asked why the state has made so much progress. The answer is not just what was done but how it was done. The Tennessee way of addressing education improvement began in 2009 with A Roadmap for Student Success that outlined Tennessee-specific solutions to meet the needs of Tennessee students. The Tennessee Department of Education plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) continues this successful approach.

SCORE reviewed the ESSA plan in depth and gave extensive feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education, and many other education advocates have engaged and offered comments as well. We know of no other state that has so fully embraced the concept that a better plan could be developed with wide-ranging public review and input. A commitment to transparency and engagement is integral to the Tennessee way.

The foundation of the Tennessee way is a firm belief that all students can achieve at high levels when education policies and practices are centered on students and their academic needs. Under the flexibility ESSA offers, Tennessee’s plan is advancing student-focused solutions in some vital ways:

• The plan takes accountability to the school level and will give parents, educators, and the community deeper insight into how well a school is serving the many different types of students enrolled there. Achievement gaps are a persistent problem in Tennessee, and they hamper the state’s work to be among the best of the best for academic performance. The Tennessee ESSA plan is emphasizing using a broad set of indicators to measure academic success for rural students, students of color, low-income students, students with disabilities, and English learners.

• The plan lays out a clearer and more comprehensive approach to turning around longtime low-performing schools. First, it gives districts more opportunities to develop their own plans for school improvement plus it provides support from the state to carry out those plans. Second, if those efforts are not successful, the state-run Achievement School District will step in with a plan to better serve the students.

• The new “ready graduate” indicator is an innovative way to clearly connect K-12 accountability to Tennessee’s Drive to 55 goal. In addition to graduation rates, high schools will be measured by how many of their students are ready for postsecondary education by either achieving an ACT score of 21 or completing four early-postsecondary opportunity (EPSO) courses, such as Advanced Placement and career/technical education classes, or earning industry certification and completing two EPSO courses.

A decade ago, citizens across Tennessee resolved to do better for the state’s students and stepped up to deal with engrained and daunting education problems. With educators in the lead, Tennessee has shown courage and creativity in tackling the complicated problems holding back schools and students. Following the Tennessee way, this ESSA plan takes another step toward the goal of preparing every student for success after high school.

Download a copy of the Tennessee ESSA plan.

State of Education Report Identifies Top Three Tennessee Education Priorities for 2017

The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) today released a list of the top three education priorities for continuing the state’s recent unprecedented student achievement gains in a new report, 2016-17 State of Education in Tennessee.

AR 2017 cover vertical borderSCORE, a nonpartisan education research and advocacy nonprofit organization founded by Senator Bill Frist, MD, each year compiles the State of Education report to examine recent successes in K-12 public education and identify opportunities for continued improvement in academic achievement. The 2017 report outlines an agenda to keep Tennessee on track to remain among the fastest-improving states for student achievement, to close achievement gaps for historically underserved students, and to prepare all students for postsecondary education and the workforce.

“Tennessee has come far in a short period of time, showing the entire country what can be accomplished when policies and practices are focused on what is best for students and their learning,” SCORE Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jamie Woodson said. “Reaching our goals for our students, however, will require continued effort and dedication. The list of priorities for 2017 crystallizes what must happen this year in order for Tennessee’s academic progress to continue.”

The 2016-17 State of Education in Tennessee identifies the top priorities as:

1. Accelerate support for Tennessee’s educators. The report recommends improving teacher compensation, strengthening teacher preparation, building school leadership pipelines, and maintaining the commitment to the multiple-measure teacher evaluation system as a tool for improving instruction.

2. Drive toward excellence and equity for all Tennessee students — especially underserved students. The State of Education report calls for expanding access to highly effective and diverse teachers. Tennessee should continue pushing forward with a new plan for an accountability system that serves all students and give all students rigorous early postsecondary and career opportunities in high school, the report says.

3. Stand firm on Tennessee’s policies that have led to historic gains while seizing opportunities to advance innovation. The report points to the link between Tennessee’s student achievement gains and its policies for academic standards, assessment, and accountability, and it emphasizes that teachers and students need stability in those systems. The report also calls for Tennessee totake advantage of opportunities to spur additional improvements in student achievement through innovation, specifically related to professional development and scaling up high-quality instructional strategies and materials.

“The list of priorities reflects an agenda not just for SCORE but for the entire state of Tennessee. Inside the 2016-17 State of Education in Tennessee, are specific, detailed calls to action – and every education partner in the state can find at least one to work on this year,” Woodson said.

SCORE presented the report findings to educators, policymakers, and community and civic leaders during an event at War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville. Speakers included educator Lindsey Hagan, an assistant principal in Hamilton County and member of the SCORE Steering Committee; advocate Tosha Downey, director of advocacy for the Memphis Education Fund; and business executive Joelle Phillips, president of AT&T Tennessee and a member of the SCORE Board of Directors.

The 2016-17 State of Education in Tennessee is the eighth annual report from SCORE. Over its history, the report’s priority lists have helped advance student achievement efforts in Tennessee:

• A 2010 priority called for building public support for higher expectations in the classroom. Later that year, the Expect More, Achieve More Coalition was founded.

• A 2012 priority urged Tennessee to provide excellent professional development to help teachers use higher math and English standards to accelerate learning. Tennessee went on to train more than 60,000 teachers.

• A 2016 priority recommended elevating teacher voice. Now the Tennessee Teacher Leadership Collaborative is building a statewide network to expand teacher leadership opportunities.

In compiling the report and identifying the priorities, SCORE analyzed Tennessee student achievement data and current education research and held conversations with more than 150 Tennessee teachers, education leaders at the local and state levels, and national education partners.

Download the report.

Woodson: Education a Top Priority in State of the State Speech

The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) has released this statement from Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jamie Woodson about the State of the State speech delivered Monday night by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam:

The State of the State address reflects a continued commitment to education as Tennessee’s top priority. Additional funding for high-needs students is important to providing equity and excellence for all students. There are achievement gaps all across Tennessee, and the state cannot rise to the best of the best until we narrow and close these gaps. In addition, Tennessee’s recent academic success would not have been possible without the hard work of our educators. To keep our great teachers and recruit more great teachers, Tennessee must continue to improve compensation — and empower school district leaders to use these resources as needed in their schools.

Importantly, Governor Haslam has also proposed investments that will directly support increasing the number of Tennesseans with education beyond high school. Investing in career and technical education makes clear to employers that our students — the employees of the future — will be able to do the jobs of the future. Finally, Governor Haslam’s proposal to offer all Tennesseans the chance to attend community college free of tuition and fees, and the commitment to the education of those in the National Guard, is a bold step that continues Tennessee’s leadership in education.

Additional details on Governor Haslam’s proposals.

Statement from David Mansouri on Tennessee’s ESSA Plan

The State Collaborative on Reforming Education has released this statement from President David Mansouri on Tennessee’s draft implementation plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Tennessee has an opportunity with the Every Student Succeeds Act to create a unique, Tennessee-specific approach that will build upon the work already underway to support our students in greater and faster academic growth. The Tennessee Department of Education has taken a thoughtful, inclusive approach to writing the draft plan, engaging thousands of Tennesseans in the development process.

SCORE will review the draft from the student-focused perspective of how quickly it will move Tennessee toward the goal of preparing all graduates to be ready for education beyond high school and for work. Our review will pay particular attention to school accountability, school improvement, and delivering excellent and equitable outcomes for students of all backgrounds because of the impact these issues can have on student achievement. We will offer detailed feedback to the department, and we encourage education partners across Tennessee to review this plan through the same lens and offer feedback as well.

State Report Card Improves Reporting of Teacher Preparation Program Effectiveness

The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) has released this statement from President David Mansouri about the new Teacher Preparation Report Card from the State Board of Education:

SCORE has looked in depth at teacher preparation policy and practice this year and recently issued recommendations for improving how Tennessee educates its future educators. One recommendation called for better reporting on the effectiveness of the state’s educator preparation programs, and the new Teacher Preparation Report Card takes a big step to address this need. The redesign, led by the State Board of Education, makes the report card more useful for decision-making by school district leaders, prospective teachers, and educator preparation programs. With more educator preparation work like this in 2017, Tennessee can become the state leading the way in preparing all teachers for day one in the classroom.