Ten years ago, Tennessee received an “F” from the US Chamber of Commerce for truth in advertising about student achievement and college and career preparedness. Understanding the need for bold action, shortly after its founding in 2009, SCORE traveled across the state to hear directly from Tennesseans about how to make the state a leader in education. From those conversations, SCORE published A Roadmap to Success, proposing action steps to dramatically improve student achievement in Tennessee.
Since then, many of those recommendations have been adopted, and Tennessee students have made historic academic gains climbing from the worst-performing states to the middle of national rankings. In 2017, Tennessee stands at a pivotal point in the state’s education improvement journey. We at SCORE believe now is the time to take a longer view on our state’s progress, discuss our vision for success moving forward, and develop a roadmap to achieve that vision.
In June and July, the SCORE team traveled over 1,300 miles across the state–from Memphis to Kingsport, Dyersburg to Pulaski—to hear from hundreds of Tennessee educators, elected officials, and business and community leaders. Through these conversations, SCORE gathered a broad set of perspectives that will help shape a shared vision for student success and identify top actions to pursue.
SCORE heard several key messages across the state. Tennesseans commended their public schools for a stronger focus than ever on the quality of instruction in classrooms, particularly early literacy. Tennesseans see teachers implementing the state’s rigorous academic standards to elevate students to their highest potential. To do this, teachers are collaborating with one another, sharing ideas, and exploring solutions to common problems of practice. Both in the school and at the state level, Tennessee’s teachers have a broad array of leadership opportunities to share strategies and advocate for their students’ success.
Tennesseans also pointed to several areas for improvement and innovation. Across the state, SCORE heard a clear message: if we are to reach our goal of 75 percent students proficient in third-grade reading by 2025, we must address gaps in achievement between students earlier. Community leaders called for strengthened instruction in grades K-2, coupled with high-quality early childhood supports. In later grades, Tennesseans called for the existing high school model to be rethought to make sure students are equipped for success in their careers. High schools must link learning to real world problems, empowering students to explore solutions through collaboration, critical thinking, and innovation. Community leaders stressed that all students should have the opportunity to earn college-level credits while enrolled in high school and have meaningful work-based learning experiences. Tennesseans urged leaders in K-12 education, higher education, and business to engage in regular conversation about the alignment of coursework to meet workforce demand.
In the coming months, SCORE will continue to hold conversations with leaders across the state to develop a unified Roadmap for Tennessee’s success. This document will communicate where Tennessee has made remarkable progress, as well as opportunities for generational change. Tennesseans have big aspirations for their children and the state as a whole. Together, we will chart the next phase of our education improvement journey so all students have the opportunity to prosper.