Dear Friends,

“Great leaders create great school culture where students want to come to learn. One of the opportunities for growth for Tennessee education is to ensure that we have the correct leadership aligned to every school to make sure we have success in every school.” – Dexter Murphy, Upper School Dean, Emerald Academy Public Charter School, Knoxville

The quote above is one SCORE used in Excellence For All: How Tennessee Can Lift Our Students To Best In The Nation to help frame the priority of developing school leaders who are ready to lead learning and people. Research and the on-the-ground experience that Dexter Murphy articulates so well tell us that excellent teaching and great leadership are the most important drivers of student achievement inside a school. Excellence For All has set a vision to 2025 that elevates excellence in teaching and leadership in our state.

To improve student achievement, principals must prioritize instruction and the development of a team of highly effective educators. To do this, Tennessee must ensure that leader preparation programs are preparing and supporting principals for their roles as leaders of instruction and people, as well as the other diverse responsibilities inherent in school leadership.

This week the Tennessee State Board of Education votes on new policies that lay the ground work for improved data reporting on leadership preparation programs, a good first step. And, SCORE is focusing on the topic of school leadership this month in a series of blog posts on The SCORE Sheet that explore the many aspects and opportunities around school leadership in Tennessee.

• There is currently a post by SCORE Graduate Fellow Francisco Santelli that examines recent research from the Tennessee Education Research Alliance (TERA) demonstrating that Tennessee data show strong principals keep strong teachers in the classroom.
• In addition, SCORE Senior Policy and Research Analyst Indira Dammu writes about the need to improve principal diversity in Tennessee.
• The Wallace Foundation describes what the organization has learned over the past 18 years about what experience and evidence say about the importance of education leadership.
• Dr. Sara Morrison, the executive director at the Tennessee State Board of Education, explains several policies that State Board members will be voting on this week to improve reporting and accountability for leadership preparation programs in Tennessee.

Still to come, the leaders at the helm of the leadership preparation programs at University of Tennessee, Knoxville and Lipscomb University will contribute a blog about their work to create and ensure high-quality leadership preparation programs.

Effective leaders impact student achievement by setting a school mission, creating a strong school culture, and hiring and retaining effective teachers, among other responsibilities. One important step forward that Tennessee can take to jumpstart student achievement growth, particularly in light of last week’s TNReady results, is to prepare and support school leaders better, and that work is beginning to move forward.

Very truly yours,