Thanks to the hard work of our dedicated educators and students over recent years, Tennessee has seen and sustained historic gains in terms of student achievement. Doing what is best for students has been the key to our state’s success. However, we know that critical work remains to continue on the path that will lead to all Tennessee students graduating high school prepared to earn a postsecondary credential or degree.

In June, SCORE launched a new strategic plan with the mission to drive innovations that transform education – from kindergarten through postsecondary education – so Tennessee students develop the knowledge and skills to succeed in school, college, career, and life. Advocating for student-focused policies and practices in K-12 education has been, and will always be, a critical part of our work at SCORE even as our mission has expanded into postsecondary education.

SCORE has set four new goals under the strategic plan for the organization and for Tennessee to achieve greater student success. Two of those goals are to ensure that all students receive an excellent public K-12 education and that all students have equitable opportunities for success. These two goals cannot be accomplished without Tennessee’s dedicated K-12 educators who work in and outside the classroom as advocates for their students’ success.

This week, SCORE welcomes the sixth cohort of the Tennessee Educator Fellowship (TEF), which provides an opportunity for a clear and consistent voice from leaders in the classroom. The fellowship empowers participating educators to weigh in on policy conversations at the state and local level that affect their students, their colleagues, and their schools. Fellows learn, share, and provide a voice for educators and students across the state as well as serve as advocates in their own communities or regions.

TEF alumni have led new education initiatives and worked to improve outcomes for all students. Their work has included advocating for the use of high-quality instructional materials; starting a leadership academy for students to explore a career in teaching; bringing community leaders into classrooms to discuss the importance of literacy in their careers; expanding access to early postsecondary opportunities for students; amplifying the voice, presence, and support for educators of color; and much more.

Fellows also have engaged in education conversations at the local, state, and national levels and written op-eds and blog posts for news and education outlets, including The Tennessean, Education Post, and Hechinger Report.

Educators are the number one in-school factor affecting student achievement and we are committed to ensuring that Tennessee, through policies and practices, is focused on preparing, recruiting, supporting, and retaining excellent teachers and leaders for Tennessee students. The fellowship is an excellent example of how SCORE has and will continue to value K-12 educators and help them lift their voices and their impact across the state.

This incoming TEF cohort is composed of outstanding educators from all across Tennessee who value leadership opportunities to make an impact in K-12 education policy. As SCORE embarks on the new goals and priorities set forth in the new strategic plan, I look forward to learning from and working with this talented group of student-centered educator leaders.

Dr. Sharon Roberts is the chief K-12 impact officer at SCORE.