For the past 10 years, Tennesseans have agreed that improving education must be a statewide priority. Bold action has made Tennessee a national leader in K-12 student academic growth and affordable and accessible college for all students.

Along with our partners in education, advocacy, and philanthropy, the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) is proud of what has been accomplished. A relentless focus on doing what is best for students has been the key to our success.

While K-12 and postsecondary education have each demonstrated excellence and innovation, there has been only limited coordination. Tennessee now has its highest-ever rates of high school graduation and college admission, but four out of ten students need remediation in postsecondary while fewer than half of those who start college go on to graduate. Clearly, we must do more to help every student earn a postsecondary credential or degree.

With input from a wide range of people – educators, employers, community leaders, and philanthropists – SCORE concluded that we wanted our definition of student success to extend beyond K-12. To fulfill that mission, SCORE is widening the scope of our work and now will focus on driving the transformation needed across the entire education spectrum – from kindergarten through postsecondary to career. We believe that education should prepare students for success in college, career, and life.

We took our first step into this new space yesterday when we announced that Complete Tennessee is being welcomed into SCORE to create a unified approach to education advocacy. Because better coordination is an urgent need, we will be announcing additional initiatives very soon.

SCORE’s new strategic plan has set goals that will hold us accountable for a holistic approach to delivering student success. All students must receive an excellent K-12 education so every student can go on to earn a postsecondary credential or degree, which establishes the path to a career that enables economic independence. We cannot reach those three goals without a fourth one, equitable opportunities for all students.

Going forward, SCORE will continue to focus on K-12 education. Tennessee’s academic standards are based on the knowledge that college and career readiness should begin with a firm foundation of learning in K-8 and intensify in high school with early postsecondary opportunities. You can expect our K-12 work to zero in on early grades literacy and redesigning high school to give every student multiple options for careers and postsecondary study.

SCORE also begins a new focus on supporting college completion with the recognition that today students may start “college” in high school and then choose to complete their work at a TCAT, community college, or four-year university. We will be looking for innovations that better support students, especially during the critical first semesters of postsecondary education, so every student earns a credential or diploma.

Postsecondary credentials are increasingly essential for career success. The Center on Education and Workforce last week released new research finding that in US manufacturing the workers with postsecondary certificates or degrees outnumber those whose learning stopped at high school. The study reminds us that great jobs, like manufacturing, require better-educated workers.

As always, SCORE will monitor progress but our datasets will span from kindergarten to career. We will help set the education agenda for Tennessee and advocate for policies and practices that will improve student outcomes, including excellent educators, high expectations, and K-12 to career alignment.

We are honored that Complete Tennessee is joining us, and we are energized and eager for the work ahead. Thank you for all that you will do to help us push forward for students.

David Mansouri is president and CEO of SCORE.

More About The SCORE Strategic Plan: