Although I have worked on the SCORE Prize since 2011, this is my first year to visit all but one of the finalists. It’s the first time I have had the opportunity to see firsthand the innovation, passion, and dedication of these communities and talk with them about why this work is so important. As I begin the final preparations for the event itself, I keep thinking back on those visits and lingering on one word in particular – inspiring.

Interviewing students at Ravenwood High School

What I found most inspiring was that, despite representing a diverse range of income levels, population groups, and geographic regions, they are each leveraging the unique resources available to them in order to ensure that every student is college and career ready. These finalists are using creative intervention strategies, actively communicating with parents, engaging in conversations early and often with students and parents about the importance of college, and forming community partnerships to support any gaps, just to name a few. These schools and districts are proving that every day we can do a little bit better than the day before to ensure our students are setup for success.

The SCORE Prize is one of my favorite projects, because I not only get the chance to witness greatness in action, but I have the honor of taking that inspiration and creating an event that celebrates these schools and districts in a powerful way. People that have never been to the event might imagine banquet tables, buffet lines, long speeches, and PowerPoints. Only you won’t find any of that on October 27, because it’s not about having an awards ceremony. It’s about having a celebration of progress, success, and student learning. So instead, you will find the faces of Tennessee students welcoming you, a beautiful concert hall that seats 2,000 people, our state’s leaders coming together to show their appreciation, a concert by Tennessee native Dustin Lynch, a few tears (not just from me), and the reason why these schools and districts are leaders in student learning.

It is our goal each year that this celebration lives far beyond the one night, that we can learn from the finalists and share their strategies with others in the state and nation all year long. On one of my visits, I had the opportunity to understand that goal in a much deeper way. Covington High School’s principal, Marcus Heaston, shared with me that because of SCORE Prize, other school leaders were calling him to come visit his school and to understand how his students are achieving at such high levels. This has given him the opportunity to form partnerships that he otherwise would not have been able to make.

That’s the power of the SCORE Prize – it’s about being inspired and inspiring others.

I hope that you will to do more than read this blog, think nice thoughts, and move on to the next thing. I hope you will take an hour and a half on Monday, October 27 at 6:00pm to be inspired by leaders in our state who believe anything is possible for our students and are proving it every day.

Free tickets to the SCORE Prize event can be reserved at