Just over a year ago, I joined the SCORE team as a graduate fellow, working in a part-time role while completing my master’s degree in public policy at Vanderbilt University. Deeply grateful for the opportunity to support student success in public schools across Tennessee, I am excited to continue working with SCORE in the new role of research and data analyst on our Research and Innovation team.

In this new role, I focus on leveraging data to inform SCORE’s strategic practice and advocacy work. Specifically, through data analysis, the Research and Innovation team is able to highlight existing equity gaps and work directly with practitioners on targeted pilots to generate proof points of what is possible. I am eager to dig deep into this work and continue to improve educational opportunities for Tennessee students.

I am particularly interested in promoting equity in our state public education system across various areas of work. For the SCORE 2020 State of Education in Tennessee, I was able to work with the Research and Innovation team to highlight key inequities that must be addressed to improve student outcomes across the state:

  • For third-grade reading proficiency, only 21 percent of Black students were proficient compared to 44.2 percent of their White peers.
  • While 37 percent of all Tennessee students are students of color, only 13 percent of the current teacher workforce are teachers of color.
  • Compared to the postsecondary completion rate of 48.2 percent for all students, only 34.1 percent of Black students complete postsecondary within six years.

I’m also excited to strategically use data to connect the student experience across K-12, postsecondary, and beyond. During the current public health crisis, I have been able to see directly how research analysis and the use of relevant data have the power to bring educators together and inform critical decisions on how best to serve students, educators, and families during such unprecedented times. This research enables school leaders and educators to understand how to deliver effective instruction in a remote or hybrid learning environment.

My time as a graduate fellow at SCORE has informed my work as research and data analyst in a variety of ways. First, I was able to become familiar with SCORE’s core values and learn how team members embodied these characteristics in their daily work. The ability to cultivate strong relationships with team members and provide support across programmatic teams gave me a deep understanding of SCORE’s strategic priorities and allowed me to jump right in as a full-time employee and immediately dig into meaningful projects. This internal transition from graduate fellow to analyst was particularly useful as I started this new role at the same time SCORE transitioned to working from home during the pandemic. My familiarity with SCORE’s work and comfort with my colleagues has been undeniably valuable during this time, allowing me to acclimate to my new role more quickly.

As the vision for public education continues to change and evolve, I am grateful to serve in this new role at SCORE and continue building on the education foundation we’ve strengthened in Tennessee over the last decade. With that strong foundation, we can ensure that Tennessee students are successful in education, career, and life.

Alexis Parker is SCORE’s research and data analyst.