NASHVILLE – The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) has released priorities and action steps for improving student outcomes in Tennessee in a new report, Expanding Student Success: 2020 State Of Education In Tennessee.

SCORE, a nonpartisan education policy and advocacy nonprofit founded by Senator Bill Frist, M.D., this year broadened its annual State of Education report to examine how well Tennessee students are served across K-12 and postsecondary education. SCORE last year expanded its mission, encompassing the education spectrum from kindergarten to postsecondary completion, to ensure students are ready to succeed in college, career, and life.

“We are hopeful about the state of education in Tennessee,” Frist said. “Tennessee has never ranked higher on the Nation’s Report Card, yet it is also clear that our state is not delivering enough success to all students. Currently a little more than a quarter of Tennessee students graduate from high school and go on to earn a bachelor’s or associate degree, but more than half of jobs in 2025 will require a postsecondary credential. We are encouraged by the commitment Governor Lee and the General Assembly have made to public education and look forward to partnering with state leaders to ensure our education system is working for students from the moment they enter their kindergarten classroom until the day they start their careers.” The State Of Education In Tennessee report identifies these priority areas for 2020:

  • Create equitable opportunities for college and career success. The report recommends expanding support for students to complete their postsecondary programs, removing financial barriers beyond tuition, and driving for greater innovation in high school design.
  • Address Tennessee’s literacy crisis. Emphasizing that only a third of Tennessee third-graders are proficient in reading, the report calls for urgent action to improve early literacy. With selection of new English language arts textbooks this spring, the state should support districts to select high-quality materials and provide their educators professional development for excellent implementation. Other action steps focus on better preparation of teacher candidates in literacy instruction and supporting current teachers to learn about instructional practices grounded in the science of reading.
  • Strengthen teacher preparation and improve teacher pay. The report recommends pursuing innovation in teacher preparation and refreshing the state’s strategies for supporting teachers’ professional growth. Noting that Tennessee teacher compensation ranks fifth among nine Southeastern states, the report endorses making Tennessee No. 1 in the region for teacher pay.
  • Demand, support, and expand strong schools. The report calls for rethinking Tennessee’s school improvement strategies. It recommends providing more support for schools nearing priority status, continuing the Achievement School District as an intervention of last resort, and defining the school improvement role of the new Charter School Commission. The state can widen access to quality education by incentivizing high-performing charter schools to expand and removing barriers that stifle school district efforts to create innovative schools. The report also recommends data-driven efforts to better align K-12, postsecondary education, and the workforce.

“Tennessee has the opportunity to break ground by creating a coherent education system that is focused first and foremost on students and helping each of them experience success in school, college, career, and life,” SCORE President and CEO David Mansouri said. “The State of Education priorities can guide educators, policymakers, and education advocates to action that truly benefits Tennessee students and our entire state.”

SCORE presented the report findings and priorities to educators, policymakers, and community and civic leaders during a Nashville event. Speaking during the program were SCORE Chief K-12 Impact Officer Dr. Sharon Roberts, SCORE Chief Postsecondary Impact Officer Dr. Russ Wigginton, Nashville State President Dr. Shanna L. Jackson, Lenoir City Schools educator Shannon Tufts, Clarksville-Montgomery County School System Director Millard House, and Memphis Education Fund CEO Terence Patterson.