There’s no better way for an education advocacy organization to mark its 10th anniversary than by remembering the progress that has been made for students.

The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) celebrated a decade of work this week with partners who share our student-centered approach to policy and innovation. As SCORE President and CEO David Mansouri welcomed more than 200 educators, advocates, and philanthropic and community leaders to an event at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, he reminded them of the successes.

“Highest average ACT score in Tennessee history. Fastest-improving state in the nation in K-12 education. Highest graduation rate in Tennessee history. Just a few of the accomplishments of Team Tennessee over the past decade. And we’re not done yet,” David said.

A highlight of the program was the appearance of three education-focused governors who have served the state consecutively – Phil Bredesen, governor from 2003 to 2011; Bill Haslam, governor from 2011 to 2019; and Bill Lee, who became governor in January. In a discussion moderated by 2018 Tennessee Teacher of the Year Cicely Woodard, the leaders emphasized the importance of having high expectations for academic achievement and sticking with student-focused policies.

Governor Bredesen recalled how it disappointed him that Tennessee’s inflated student proficiency rates received an “F” for truthfulness from the US Chamber of Commerce in 2007. His reaction was to conclude Tennessee needed to start by being honest about expectations in the classroom and honest about how well students are doing.

Governor Haslam acknowledged the preceding work of the Bredesen administration saying, “It’s a lot easier to steer a moving car.” With policies in place, the Haslam administration could focus on refusing to accept that some kids cannot have good education outcomes, Governor Haslam said.

Governor Lee pointed to the aspirations shared by all Tennesseans: good jobs, good schools and safe neighborhoods. Education is the first link in the chain to realizing those goals, he said.

SCORE Chairman and Founder Senator Bill Frist was honored for his leadership in elevating education as an issue in Tennessee with a presentation by the three people who have led SCORE since 2009: Brad Smith, Jamie Woodson, and David Mansouri.

Senator Frist emphasized the power of collaboration. “I am so grateful to each of you in this room for continuing to drive forward to improve education for all students in Tennessee,” he said. “Students, parents, educators, legislators, community leaders, the three governors with us, our funders, advocacy partners and so many others who make this work possible. Thank you.”

Acknowledging the significant progress that has been made, Senator Frist also urged SCORE’s partners to continue pushing for greater success for students. “Your work matters now more than it ever has before. Our country is divided, our health is declining – but education can remedy those challenges,” he said. “Let’s recommit this evening to working together to improve the lives of young people all across Tennessee by providing a high-quality education for every Tennessean – and ensuring every Tennessean is ready for successful careers and for life.”

Teresa Wasson is director of strategic communications at SCORE.