Last month, SCORE announced an exciting expansion of our work under a new strategic plan, which will allow us to ensure that the important work happening in K-12 is seamlessly connected to work in postsecondary, leading students to success in life. As we transition into this new work, I’m excited to have the opportunity to build out a new team at SCORE—Research and Innovation—which is tasked with leading SCORE’s research and data analysis efforts, including researching and piloting innovative practices that could improve outcomes in Tennessee across the K-12 to jobs continuum.

In my previous role as Director of Educator Engagement, I was able to build out some of our innovative pilot work through the LIFT network. LIFT is a network of districts from across the state who work collaboratively to improve outcomes for students, and their particular focus has been on early literacy.

Through LIFT, we have learned how important it is to generate proof points of what is possible and use those learnings to spread and scale promising practices. I’m eager to take what we have learned from LIFT and apply it to other problems of practice, particularly as we think about how we can better ensure that our students are able to effectively transition from high school into college, career, and life success.

The Research and Innovation team will investigate promising practices at the national and state levels and work to leverage data to identify areas to test out some of these innovative ideas through targeted pilots with implementation support. We will then work to utilize those learnings to drive forward a policy agenda to ensure districts and schools are able to effectively meet the needs of all students.

In addition to our innovation work, the team will also lead SCORE’s annual priority-setting process to ensure we are making progress on the work we have set out to lead. This includes analyzing state-level data to identify areas where Tennessee is excelling, as well as areas where the state may have some collective work to do to better meet the needs of our students.

Lastly, our team will be leading research around areas related to our organizational goals and annual priorities. This may include reports on topics like the current state of high school, college and career advising, and other areas that impact students’ ability to find the best fit after high school. We look forward to not only researching and producing these reports but getting into the field to discuss the implications with practitioners doing the work and finding ways to support action on any recommendations.

As we build out this new work, we will be sharing updates through our website and social media, so we invite you to learn along with us. We are committed to ensuring that practitioners have access to the research and data needed to continue improving outcomes for kids in Tennessee. We look forward to working alongside you to ensure that Tennessee continues to be one of the fastest improving states in the country in education.

Courtney Bell is the senior director of research and innovation at SCORE.