NASHVILLE – Tennessee K-12 and higher education should prioritize accelerating learning, closing college completion gaps, expanding high-quality charter schools, and preparing students for careers in the coming year, the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) says in a new report released today.

In Seizing The Moment: 2022 State Of Education In Tennessee, its 12th annual report, SCORE calls for priorities and policies that will accelerate and reimagine student learning as the state continues to help students and the education system recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the release event today, Sen. Bill Frist, MD, former US Senate Majority Leader and founder of SCORE, shared a call to action with audience members.

“There is no time to wait,” Frist said. “We believe that Tennesseans can seize this moment to advance innovative, student-centered reforms to push back against the great disruption of COVID-19 and chart a path forward toward a bright future for every student.” 

The 2022 State Of Education In Tennessee report outlines four priority areas for 2022:

Accelerate student learning. Given the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on student learning — evidenced by drops in math and reading proficiency on 2021 TCAP results — the report urges action to accelerate student learning and put students on a path to college and career success. The report calls for harnessing data to identify ways to support students as recovery from the pandemic continues; expanding research-supported strategies, including high-dosage tutoring and summer learning; and reimagining K-12 education funding to improve student learning today.

Close Tennessee’s college completion gaps. Acknowledging Tennessee’s national leadership in student-focused higher education policy, the report also notes that the state still has a college completion problem. Just one in two students who enroll in a Tennessee public college or university goes on to complete a credential within six years, with lower rates of completion in the state’s community colleges. Gaps by student groups have remained wide, with higher education graduating Black and Hispanic students at substantially lower rates than White students. Citing postsecondary completion as a top economic priority, the report recommends that Tennessee resolve to close its long-standing completion gaps with research-proven strategies to support students, work to strengthen Tennessee Transfer Pathways, and update the higher education outcomes-based funding formula to further align with the state’s completion goals.

Increase high-quality charter school opportunities. The report points to research showing that high-quality public charter schools show better student outcomes for Black, Hispanic, and low-income students compared to many traditional public schools. The report recommends expanding opportunities for students to attend high-quality nonprofit public charter schools by incentivizing charter operators to launch, expand, and replicate schools in the state. In addition, the report recommends strengthening charter authorizer policy and practices and addressing funding disparities for charter schools, including facilities funding.

Support students to be ready for careers. With more than half of the state’s jobs requiring a postsecondary credential — and too few Tennesseans reaching that education milestone — the report cites a need for K-12 and higher education systems to provide coursework and learning opportunities that prepare students for careers. To achieve this, the report recommends leveraging K-12, college, and workforce data to guide policy decisions and practices. In addition, the report urges that Tennessee strengthen career and technical education and work-based learning opportunities while increasing partnerships across K-12, postsecondary education, and industry to ensure more opportunities for students to earn high-quality credentials in innovative ways.

“Since 2010, the state has blazed the trail to build an education system centered on foundational policies that work for students,” Mansouri told the audience at the report release. “SCORE believes that Tennessee should build on this foundation to act with purpose to advance education priorities that will both accelerate and reimagine student learning as we continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

SCORE presented the report findings to educators, policymakers, and community and civic leaders during an event at the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville that also was broadcast via livestream. Speaking at the event were Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Dr. Penny Schwinn, Tennessee Higher Education Commission Executive Director Dr. Emily House, Tennessee State Board of Education Executive Director Dr. Sara Morrison, Representative Mark White, Scarlett Family Foundation President and CEO Tara Scarlett, Ayers Foundation President Janet Ayers, TCAT Covington President Dr. Youlanda Jones, and Nicole Lattimore, the parent of a student at Emerald Academy in Knoxville.

Download The Report