Every year, the SCORE Prize honors schools and districts that have most dramatically improved student achievement. As a SCORE Graduate Fellow, I learned that it is so much more than that. The SCORE Prize recognizes all of the members in a school, working day and night to give their students the power of an education. 

The work to select the SCORE Prize winners began in August, when SCORE used a data-driven process to identify nine schools and three districts in Tennessee that had experienced the most growth in student achievement over the past three years. Then SCORE gathers qualitative data, such as focus groups and interviews. I have been privileged to assist with much of the SCORE Prize process – from the finalist announcements to the school site visits and video shoots, up through October 28th, at our SCORE Prize event. As a teacher fresh out of college, this experience has verified my decision to become an educator.

I grew up and lived in Chicago my entire life so when I moved here, I was not aware of any Tennessee schools or the work that was going on inside of them. I knew the SCORE Prize would be a blessing in the life of any school, but I didn’t know how much until I had the pleasure of visiting the finalists in person. The schools all had some sort of struggle, as any school does, whether that was a challenging journey getting to the SCORE Prize or financial barriers. More importantly, the teachers and school leaders showed a tremendous amount of passion for student success and valued all students, as if they were their own.

First, I got to experience site visits. We entered the building of one of the school finalists and were immediately greeted warmly by teachers and administration. The hallways were filled with student work and smiling faces. Then, we began the interviews and focus groups. I was able to speak with over 40 parents and students and every single of them voiced the same feelings. They loved their school culture and understood that high standards were actually the rule, not the exception. The students shared their love for reading with me and immense appreciation for their caring teachers. Parents expressed the sense of community they felt in their school, and teachers admitted to the endless nights of planning that was required to get to this point. Undoubtedly, everyone valued hard work and agreed that there was no ceiling for what the students could accomplish. Already, it was evident why these schools were SCORE Prize finalists.

Next I was able to join a video crew from Snapshot Interactive, who worked with the SCORE team to produce visual stories of the finalists. During the video shoot, I was able to hear stories from parents, principals, teachers and students about how their school has made a powerful impact on their lives. There were tears of joy and moving stories about communities coming together to transform schools to better their children. Mothers received daily meals at their homes from their school because they were in the hospital, teachers worked night after night to help one child turn the corner in their schoolwork and principals visited classrooms frequently to support their team. I felt so honored to see the teacher’s best practices and learn how each school reached this level of triumph. The entire SCORE Prize process fueled my desire as a teacher and inspired me to educate to the finalists’ caliber.

I look forward to the SCORE Prize event because I know the finalists will finally be recognized for all of their hard work and dedication to the education of students in Tennessee, and the audience at the event will be able to experience the excitement I felt when I visited these schools. If you believe that we must celebrate their success, I encourage you to reach out and lift up the people in our education community by coming to our SCORE Prize event on October 28th. Each school deserves the support and acknowledgement because what they do matters.