Having an effective educator for every Tennessee student is one of the most important ways to ensure that all students receive a high-quality education. Teachers are the most important in-school factor for raising student achievement, and their work is vital to preparing students for postsecondary studies and jobs.

Making Tennessee the best state for teaching is one of the five priorities in the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) report, Excellence For All: How Tennessee Can Lift Our Students To Best In The Nation. Since the report’s release, progress has already been made on several of this priority’s recommendations. Here are a few standout examples of how Tennessee is focusing on recruiting and preparing future educators to help lead students to another decade of academic progress and growth.

Tennessee must recruit the best and brightest to become educators to ensure an excellent teacher in every public K-12 classroom. Education Commissioner Candice McQueen launched her Teach Today. Change Tomorrow. Tour this year to visit schools and discuss the opportunity to become teachers with high school students. Her tour builds on the 2017 statewide Teach Today. Change Tomorrow. campaign to encourage students to join the teaching profession. To better serve students, Tennessee needs a strong, diverse educator pipeline and that starts with teachers and school leaders talking about the rewards of a career in education.

Last month, the Tennessee State Board of Education released the 2017 Teacher Preparation Report Card. Within one year, many Tennessee preparation programs grew notably, and eight programs increased their overall rating. Indira Dammu, a senior policy and research analyst at SCORE, wrote about some of the important highlights from the report card. For example, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville became the first public institution to receive the overall highest score of a 4. As one of the state’s largest teacher providers, this growth was substantial. Preparing teachers to be ready on the first day of school is crucial for raising student achievement.

One of the recommendations in SCORE’s 2016 report, Prepared For Day One: Improving The Effectiveness Of Early-Career Teaching, called for increasing the time that program candidates spend in classrooms during student teaching and residencies. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is piloting a program this year to increase candidates’ student teaching experience from one semester to one year. This change is crucial for teacher candidates to get a full understanding of the yearlong work and responsibilities of an educator. To be there on the first day of school, working with their mentor to integrate into the classroom, allows teacher candidates to learn how to build a culture of success and sustain it throughout the year.

Inspiring conversations with high school students about the teaching profession and teacher preparation programs making crucial changes show that Tennessee is working to increase teacher quality in every school and every classroom. Improvements like this are important steps to ensuring that Tennessee is working to lift all students to be among the best in the nation.