“Tennessee should make high schools a top priority in education because it is the foundation that everyone needs either for the workplace or a postsecondary institution. The better prepared students are when they leave high schools, the more successful they will be in life.” – Dr. Jeff Sisk, Director, TCAT Jackson

Over the last several months, the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) has worked with K-12, industry, and higher education leaders to identify ways Tennessee can ensure that when students walk across the stage at high school graduation, they have a plan and can succeed in whatever route they choose in college and career.

While Tennessee has seen some of the fastest growth in the nation in K-12 student achievement and has significantly increased the college-going rate, challenges remain in seamlessly linking K-12 education to postsecondary education and the workforce. To advance student readiness, SCORE convened the Future Ready Summit earlier this month with national and state experts and over 400 attendees from across the state. As SCORE President David Mansouri said at the summit, “Tennessee’s next frontier is to go beyond the K-12 to postsecondary pathway and ensure a strong K-12 to jobs continuum for our students.”

The three keynote speakers at the summit discussed the growing need for a focus on postsecondary readiness work. Governor Haslam spoke about the strong Tennessee education foundation and the next horizon and urged us to move swiftly to improve postsecondary and career readiness and college completion. Daniel Weisberg, CEO of TNTP, talked about the latest report The Opportunity Myth and its findings on how students are currently being prepared through high school coursework. And, David Golden, Senior Vice President and Chief Legal & Sustainability Officer at Eastman Chemical Company, charged us to think creatively about the work needed to move Tennessee forward with the bold words, “Innovate or die.”

Panel discussions zeroed in on delivering alignment with partnerships focused on helping students efficiently and effectively enter a career and innovations that are increasing opportunity for students. Ayers Foundation President Janet Ayers explained how Tennessee’s focus on postsecondary readiness work has evolved over time – from a strong start with a focus on college access to emphasis on gainful employment as the end goal.

Two breakout sessions with a range of experts dug deeper into examples of progress in Tennessee and across the country, covering community collaboration, apprenticeships, successful advising programs, and high school redesign efforts.

All students deserve to find a path in high school that will lead to success and prosperity in their chosen careers. Governor Haslam aptly reminded all of us of that, saying “At the end of the day it has to be about whether we are helping people improve their outcomes.”

Jamie Woodson is the executive chairman and CEO of SCORE.